In exploring the underbelly of life in Seville, Jesus Ponce’s arresting, admirable debut “15 Days With You” revisits the gritty terrain of fellow Andalusian Benito Zambrano’s 1999 multiple-prizewinning “Alone,” at times achieving that movie’s emotional force. Tracing a couple of typically intense weeks in the lives of a jailbird and a junkie, pic hoists itself out of the dull-but-worthy bin by virtue of above-average perfs from its central tandem and an energetic script both hard-hitting and humane. Fest sidebars with a social conscience might be tempted to spend some time with it.
Haggard beauty Isabel (Isabel Ampudia) is released from jail with zero prospects and immediately starts hustling for work, cleaning shop windows. After renting a room in a hostel, she runs into old buddy, junkie and AIDS victim Rufo (rodent-featured Sebastian Haro), who makes a precarious living helping people park their cars. Rufo asks her to live with him; she agrees.
Isabel strikes up uneasy relationships with barrio residents — simpatico shop assistant Manuela (Mercedes Hoyos) and waiter (Jose Maria Pena) — but Rufo, in the grip of his addiction, goes off the rails. He filches a handbag and kills his dealer. Isabel forgives Rufo, and tells him she loves him.
Pic is heavy on the kind of minor-seeming incidents that deeply affect the lives of the disadvantaged; a No-Car Day is held in the city, for example, which most do-gooders would celebrate, but which has a negative impact on Rufo’s only source of income.
The dynamic of the pair’s lively relationship stems from Isabel’s need to care for someone, an act which confers on her the dignity she craves and which Rufo has lost. Ampudia does well to bring all this across, while Haro cleverly mines sympathy for the contemptible Rufo, never tilting him over into sentimentality.
The dialogue’s wise perceptions sometimes come at the cost of accuracy, while voiceover — used liberally throughout — is not always needed. The only major dramatic flaw comes over the last five minutes, when things turn sugary.
Makeup by Raquel Rodriguez, particularly on the face of the beaten-up Haro, deserves mention. Pic features a cameo by vet Joan Dalmau (“The Sea Inside”).