In “Silvia’s Gift,” what could easily have been a morbid study of a talented but suicidal teen turns into a gently life-affirming look at three lives pulled back from the brink. Impressively scripted, well-played and thought-provoking, this elegant meditation on sacrifice–effectively three shorts held together by a single controlling idea–signals helmer Dionisio Perez Galindo as a filmmaker to watch if he manages to spread his narrative wings. “Silvia” is the kind of quiet but valuable project that deserves wider exposure than it probably will get, but it reps a real gift for sharp-eyed fest selectors.
On the recommendation of her psychiatrist, depressive piano student Silvia (Barbara Goenaga) therapeutically talks to a video about her emotionally unsteady existence. Paradoxically, she’s decided to give her life meaning by committing suicide and offering her eyes, liver and heart to people who need them.
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Pic intersperses Silvia’s video with three stand-alone narratives, each dealing with a transplant recipient. The first centers on Carlos (Luis Tosar), who is trying to get his family life back on track since he got a new heart. He finds work in a pizza factory, but, when he’s made a foreman and decides to get a new mortgage, the pressures again begin to mount.
The second narrative has Ines (Adriana Dominguez) getting used to having her eyesight back. She recovers her sexuality by befriending the exuberant Macarena (Katyna Huberman) and having an affair with Macarena’s b.f., Roman (Gines Garcia Millan).
Meanwhile, hard-living Mateo (Victor Clavijo) leaves prison to start his new life with his transplanted liver, only to revert to his old ways when, in need of money, he goes back to work for stolen car dealer Inaki (Miguel de Lira). Not wishing to lapse, he suggests that teenager Ruben (Pablo Galan) take his place, with tragic consequences.
Beneath all the script’s understatement runs a powerful emotional undertow. The Carlos section does a good job of delving into the intimacies of family life, throwing in a strong dose of social comment about workplace difficulties in contempo Spain. (Thesp Tosar makes Carlos an apparent brute with a heart of gold, a role he’s played in all his recent pics.)
In film’s most dynamic section, Clavijo is excellent as the naturally aggressive Mateo. Weakest segment is the rather unspecific Ines one, with her passivity and self-doubt bringing things dangerously close to maudlin.
Jorge Aliaga’s delicate, classical-based score neatly generates unexpected juxtapositions between the three tales.