Debuting Spanish director Antonio Maria Garate’s “Hugs and Kisses” approaches complex themes of fraternal love and the conflict between political convictions and emotional loyalties. The drama’s serious intentions are undermined, however, by hokey, soap-operatic plotting and some awkward acting, probably limiting its circulation to European TV. Some gay fests also may partake.
Still disappointed that her beloved older brother, Tono, was too busy to come home to Pamplona for her 20th birthday, Maritxu receives word that he’s in the emergency ward of a Madrid hospital. She arrives in time to watch him die from injuries sustained during a beating from neo-fascist skinhead assailants in a park the previous night.
Unsatisfied with the efforts of the police inspector assigned to the case, Maritxu begins her own investigation. She shacks up in Tono’s old apartment, quickly kindling romantic sparks with his former roommate, Juan, and friction of a less agreeable kind with Juan’s brother Ricardo.
Realizing her brother was gay, Maritxu begins to visit the scene of the attack, looking for clues. Help comes from effeminate park regular Uve, who tends to stray cats and presides like a magic spirit over the nocturnal playground. When Maritxu’s investigation leads her back to Ricardo, he reveals the unbridgeable gap between his feelings for Tono and his political views.
The pic is visually sharp and competently directed, but too many of its major dramatic junctions are telegraphed by a clumsy script that painstakingly spells out its points about intolerance. Rampant overacting doesn’t help.