Only Human

Family comedy about a disastrous evening when a Jewish girl brings her Palestinian boyfriend home for the first time combines a deftly-turned script, fine perfs and a feel-good message to mostly delightful effect. Though reception by crix at home has been mixed, pic has sold widely to territories including the U.S.

With:
Gloria - Norma Aleandro Rafi - Guillermo Toledo Tania - Maria Botto Leni - Marian Aguilera David - Fernando Ramallo Paula - Alba Molinero Dudu - Max Berliner Ernesto - Mario Martin

Asprightly family comedy about a disastrous evening when a Jewish girl brings her Palestinian boyfriend home for the first time, “Only Human” combines a deftly-turned script, fine perfs and a feel-good message to mostly delightful effect. Pic’s lack of originality and credibility flaws are compensated for by its manifold virtues, which include sharp but compassionate observation of human failings, a satisfying way with irony, and witty dialogue. Though reception by crix at home has been mixed, pic has sold widely to territories including the U.S.

TV presenter Leni (Marian Aguilera) turns up unexpectedly at her family home with university lecturer Rafi (Guillermo Toledo). They are greeted by her caring but neurotic mother Gloria (Norma Aleandro), belly dancer sister Tania (Maria Botto) and her daughter Paula (Alba Molinero), ultra-religious younger brother David (Fernando Ramallo), and rifle-wielding senile grandfather, old soldier Dudu (Max Berliner).

Rafi is trying to amuse Paula with a container of frozen soup when it falls out of the window and apparently kills a passer-by who, Rafi learns to his horror, may be Leni’s father on his way back from work. His anxiety about this, and the nicely-worked comedy of embarrassment it generates occupy the central reels.

His problems are compounded with Leni’s upfront revelation that he is Palestinian. Pic only starts to run out of steam during the last half hour when father Ernesto (Mario Martin) moves center stage.

The ghost of Billy Wilder clearly hovers behind an agile, rapidly-paced script that is thick with farcical situations which, despite being somewhat deja vu, are dexterously helmed and played. Perfs are vibrant, especially from Argentine vet Aleandro, who’s always dependable; Toledo, who solidifies his rep as one of Spanish cinema’s finest young comedy thesps; and energetic Botto, who adds to the general effect of a well-oiled ensemble.

The dark political background rarely intrudes on the general lightness, and the message — that political differences should not be allowed to stand in the way of love — may be facile, but is always worth restating.

Only Human

Spain-U.K.-Argentina-Portugal

Production: An Alta Films release of a Tornasol Films (Spain)/Greenpoint Prods. (U.K.)/ Patagonik Film Group (Argentina)/Madragoa Producao de Filmes (Portugal) production in association with Canal + (Spain), Telemadrid, TVV, TVG, EITB, TVC. (International sales: Tornasol Films, Madrid). Produced by Gerardo Herrero, Javier Lopez Blanco, Mariela Besuievsky, Patrick Cassavetti, Adrian Sturges, Pablo Bossi, Paulo Branco. Directed, written by Teresa de Peligri, Dominic Harari.

Crew: Camera (color), Danny Cohen; editor, Fernando Pardo; music, Charlie Mole; art director, Soledad Sesena; sound (Dolby Digital), David Mantecon. Reviewed at Cine Princesa, Madrid, July 15, 2004. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: Gloria - Norma Aleandro Rafi - Guillermo Toledo Tania - Maria Botto Leni - Marian Aguilera David - Fernando Ramallo Paula - Alba Molinero Dudu - Max Berliner Ernesto - Mario Martin

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