×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kill Me Tender

An effervescent, true-life tale of shenanigans in small-town northern Spain, "Kill Me Tender" has a bleakly comic tone that suggests, at a distance, the Coen Bros., and closer to home, Luis Berlanga. Though riddled with flaws and sometimes light on subtlety, the script represents an honest attempt to come to grips with quietly desperate lives that Spanish cinema generally ignores, presenting them with a keenly ironic edge.

With:
With: Ingrid Rubio, Alberto San Juan, Emilio Gutierrez Caba, Manuel Manquina, Chusa Barbero, Agata Lys, Javivi .

An effervescent, true-life tale of shenanigans in small-town northern Spain, “Kill Me Tender” has a bleakly comic tone that suggests, at a distance, the Coen Bros., and closer to home, Luis Berlanga. Though riddled with flaws and sometimes light on subtlety, the script represents an honest attempt to come to grips with quietly desperate lives that Spanish cinema generally ignores, presenting them with a keenly ironic edge. Though local B.O. will likely be only OK, the distinctive wit and tone of writer-director Ramon de Espana’s feature debut deserve a berth at offshore arthouses.

Nestor (Emilio Gutierrez Caba), a recently widowed baker and scooter-riding Dean Martin fan, hires Maribel (gum-chewing, aggressive Ingrid Rubio) to help him around the house. Though he’s old enough to be her father, the lonely guy falls for her. Maribel’s sister, Angela (Chusa Barbero), who works in an S&M club in nearby Barcelona, advises Maribel to go for the dough and marry the wealthy Nestor.

Angela’s husband, one-time legionnaire Beni (Manuel Manquina), runs a debt-collection service in which people dress up as rabbits and follow bad debtors round the streets to humiliate them into paying. One of these rabbits is Starsky & Hutch fan Manolo (Alberto San Juan), who also falls for Maribel.

Having made a pass at Maribel and been rejected, Nestor goes insane with jealousy and heads for Barcelona to get her. Eventually, the two marry, with her hoping he’ll die quickly. Just when Maribel and Manolo have decided to knock Nestor off, the old guy keels over from heart failure, with a couple of plot twists to follow.

The fluidly recounted plot has the kind of barmy logic that reveals its provenance in real life. The abundance of material is well handled, though matters darken so much in the second half, especially with the revelation of Maribel’s tragic family background, that the comic tone is compromised.

Pains have been taken not to over-simplify characters and to observe their multiple failings with compassion. Thesps maximize the opportunity this offers, with the dependable Manquina, as the corrupt but charitable Beni, and Gutierrez Caba, as the outstandingly seedy Nestor, coming over especially well. Rubio also slides effectively into an unaccustomed role as the foul-mouthed, go-getting Maribel, while San Juan, whose mannerisms often grate in his other work, feels fine here.

Dialogue is often richly bizarre, and lensing by David Omedes takes real pleasure in the tawdry interiors of provincial Spanish homes. Alfonso de Villalonga’s score is quietly efficient.

Kill Me Tender

Spain

Production: A Buena Vista Intl. Spain release of a Star Line production, in association with Canal Sur, TVC, Telemadrid, TVV, TVG, ETB, Canal Plus. (International sales: Media Luna, Cologne.) Produced by Juan Alexander. Executive producer, Jose L. Garcia Arroyo. Directed, written by Ramon de Espana.

Crew: Camera (color), David Omedes; editor, Jose Salcedo; music, Alfonso de Villalonga; art director, Antxon Gomez; sound (Dolby Digital), Licio Marcos de Oliveira. Reviewed at Malaga Film Festival (competing), May 2, 2003. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Ingrid Rubio, Alberto San Juan, Emilio Gutierrez Caba, Manuel Manquina, Chusa Barbero, Agata Lys, Javivi .

More Film

  • The Beach Bum Trailer

    Watch: Matthew McConaughey Stars in Groovy New 'The Beach Bum' Trailer

    Matthew McConaughey takes on new levels of drug use in the latest trailer for “The Beach Bum.” True to the film’s title, the trailer opens on a trashy beach town stage where McConaughey’s character Moondog is waiting to accept some sort of musical award. “Before I accept whatever award it is they’re giving me today, [...]

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    SAG Awards Unveils Presenters After Accusing Academy of 'Intimidation'

    The SAG Awards has unveiled its first round of presenters, including Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek, Chadwick Boseman, Adam Driver, Sam Elliott, and Constance Wu. Wednesday’s announcement comes two weeks after SAG-AFTRA accused the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of intimidation in trying to limit actors from presenting on awards shows other [...]

  • Kevin Hart Fatherhood

    Kevin Hart Partnering With STX on Two Comedies (EXCLUSIVE)

    Kevin Hart is partnering with STXfilms to produce on a pair of comedy movies through his HartBeat Productions with an eye to star in both projects, Variety has learned exclusively. The announcement comes on the heels of Hart’s solid box office performance in “The Upside,” in which he co-stars with Bryan Cranston. STX’s comedic drama, co-produced [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Disruptor Netflix Joins Big Studios at the Table With MPAA Membership, Analysts Say

    Netflix is starting to look a lot like the media institutions it has been disrupting for years. In one fell swoop on Tuesday, the streaming giant racked up an impressive 15 Academy Award nominations, including a best picture nod for Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white, Spanish-language drama “Roma.” Hours later came official word that the company had [...]

  • Italy's Notorious Pictures Expands Into Exhibition,

    Italy's Notorious Pictures Expands Into Exhibition, Plans 200 Screens by 2023

    Italian distribution and production company Notorious Pictures is branching out into exhibition, aiming to have 20 multiplexes up and running within the next five years. The company has appointed former UCI Italy chief Andrea Stratta to head up a new Notorious Cinemas unit. The company said it was already in the process of taking out a [...]

  • cats logo

    As 'Cats' Starts Production, Downtown Lands Admin Deal for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music (EXCLUSIVE)

    Downtown Music Publishing has entered into a multi-year publishing administration deal with Faber Music, which represents the musical repertoire from “Cats,” the beloved and long-running Broadway sensation currently being turned into a feature film starring Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Idris Elba and Judi Dench, among others. The Universal picture, directed by Tom Hooper, recently [...]

  • Nicholas Cage. Actor Nicolas Cage poses

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Horror Movie 'Color Out of Space'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the horror movie “Color out of Space” for Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision. Principal photography will begin next month with South African filmmaker Richard Stanley directing his first feature in more than 20 years. Stanley co-wrote the script with Scarlett Amaris. The project, based on the novella by H.P. Lovecraft, will reunite Cage [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content