An aging actor and his estranged freeloading son tussle for the title of most selfish character in Victor Garcia Leon’s entertaining, occasionally poignant second film “Go Away From Me.” Like the young helmer’s critically tipped debut “No Pain, No Gain,” this bitter satire is a surprisingly classical piece of filmmaking boasting solidity, but little edge. Impeccably co-scripted with Jonas Trueba, it will have more appeal for the older matinee crowd than younger viewers. Veteran thesp Juan Diego received the actor nod at San Sebastian for his full-bodied, humorous portrayal of the father.
The curtain rises on professional actor Santiago (Juan Diego) appearing onstage as a supporting actor in a conventional farce. The maid is played by Ana (Cristina Plazas), his live-in girlfriend some 30 years his junior. At home, their comfortable domestic routine is abruptly overturned with the sudden arrival of Santiago’s 30ish son Guillermo (Juan Diego Botto), whom he hasn’t seen in a very long time. More upset at having a stranger in the house than touched by paternal affection, he does all he can to get rid of the handsome lad, over Ana’s protests.
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The rest of the film plays out fairly predictably, with a few comic spikes. Far from the ideal son he appears to be, Guillermo turns out to be a compulsive liar. He exploits his good looks with casual cruelty, bedding girls in less time than it takes Dad to get them in focus. In one well-developed gag, his long-suffering mom, Santiago’s ex (Rosa Maria Sarda from “All About My Mother”), is so happy to be rid of him she sells the house and vanishes to keep him from returning.
Like a well-heeled legit farce, the final act turns the tables on Guillermo, forcing him to take care of Santiago when he goes off on a drunken spree of impotence and self-pity.
Old lion Diego and rising young star Diego Botto (“Bordertown,” “The Dancer Upstairs”) are so well-matched in a generational face-off it’s hard to say where the director’s sympathies lie. With both protags this realistically flawed, though, the story ends like a vaguely dissatisfying arm-wrestling match that neither contestant wins.
Tech work in this character-driven film is self-effacingly seemless. David San Jose’s musical comment has its interesting moments and the backstage scenes radiate a genuine warmth for the actors’ profession at its most unglamorous.