Dearest Maria

Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in "Dearest Maria," a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic's stated claim is to introduce younger Spanish auds to the influence of this largely unknown figure. Its likeliest home, though, is with discerning fest audiences, with the odd pickup in Hispanic territories.

With:
With: Pilar Bardem, Maria Botto, Alex O'Dogherty, Maria Galiana, Juan Diego.

Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s stated claim is to introduce younger Spanish auds to the influence of this largely unknown figure. Its likeliest home, though, is with discerning fest audiences, with the odd pickup in Hispanic territories.

A key personality in the ’30s Spanish Republican movement, Zambrano was exiled when Franco came to power in 1939. Following an interview with the aging woman, journalist Lola (Maria Botto) is offered the chance to make her biopic, a project to which Zambrano (Bardem) agrees, after initial reluctance.

Zambrano’s recollections of her childhood and early involvement in politics are well evoked by juxtaposing her words with old photos and footage, much of it heartbreaking. Effectively, they double as a social and intellectual history of Republican Spain of the ’30s.

A couple of memory sequences are genuinely touching, and digital effects are intelligently employed, as when Goya’s iconic painting, “3rd May, 1808” is brought to life. But dramatically, things start to feel hurried following Zambrano’s exile, and end on an unsatisfying, ambiguous note.

Excessive time is devoted to a slight subplot about Lola’s emotional problems with b.f. Pepe (Alex O’Dogherty), her pregnancy, and her attempts to raise money from her film producer ex, artistic philistine Luis (Juan Diego).

Bardem is quietly convincing as the somewhat idealized, wheelchair-bound grand dame, vainly touching up her hair for the cameras even as she lets ash fall onto her from the cigarette holder permanently in her hand. Rafael Azcona’s script, though, conceives her as some kind of sound bite generator, incapable of speaking without delivering a resonant pearl of wisdom (largely lifted straight from Zambrano’s writings).

Dearest Maria

Spain

Production: An Alta Films release of a Redaccion 7 Andalucia, Maestranza Films production, with participation of TVE, Canal Sur. (International sales: Maestranza, Seville.) Produced by Paco Lobaton, Antonio Perez. Directed by Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez. Screenplay, Rafael Azcona.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Juan Amoros; editor, Vanesa L. Marimbert; music, Antonio Meliveo; art director, Sonia Nollas; sound (Dolby Digital), Jaime Barros, Carlos Faruolo. Reviewed at Cine Princesa, Madrid, Nov. 9, 2004. (In Valladolid Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Pilar Bardem, Maria Botto, Alex O'Dogherty, Maria Galiana, Juan Diego.

More Film

  • NANTUCKET, MA - JUNE 23: (L-R)

    How Long Will TV and Film's Boom Market for Female Stories Last?

    Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s […]

  • 'Ideal Home' Review: Steve Coogan, Paul

    Film Review: 'Ideal Home'

    Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s […]

  • 'Calibre' Review: A Terrific, Intensely Terrifying

    Edinburgh Film Review: 'Calibre'

    Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s […]

  • CHRIS PRATT stars as Owen in

    Box Office: 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' Gnaws on $144 Million Debut Weekend

    Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s […]

  • Leung Chiu-wai

    Tony Leung Breaks With Wong Kar-wai’s Jettone (Reports)

    Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s […]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    ‘Jurassic World’ Holds off ‘Incredibles 2’ in China

    Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s […]

  • shanghai skyline China Placeholder

    Regulators Keep Chinese Film Industry in Suspense

    Dexterously juggling feature and docu formats to often striking effect, vet Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez nonetheless fails for the most part to galvanize the potential high drama in “Dearest Maria,” a biopic about exiled Spanish poet and philosopher Maria Zambrano. Centered on an attractive performance from vet Pilar Bardem and entirely free of fashionability, pic’s […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content