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Women in the Park

An unfashionably low-key but claustrophobic study of a middle-class Madrid family in crisis, "Women in the Park" is as precise as a laser beam but sans the heat. Suffused with a Gallic air of fastidious detachment, pic oozes credibility regarding parent-child relationships; but its high-minded refusal to exploit hidden dramas leaves large passages feeling flat. Home B.O. has been muted since its Dec. 22 release, though "Park" could strike a chord with Euro fest auds.

With:
With: Adolfo Fernandez, Blanca Apilanez, Emma Vilarasau, Barbara Lennie, Alberto Ferreiro, Javier Albala.

An unfashionably low-key but claustrophobic study of a middle-class Madrid family in crisis, “Women in the Park” is as precise as a laser beam but sans the heat. Suffused with a Gallic air of fastidious detachment, pic oozes credibility regarding parent-child relationships; but its high-minded refusal to exploit hidden dramas leaves large passages feeling flat. Home B.O. has been muted since its Dec. 22 release, though “Park” could strike a chord with Euro fest auds.

The marriage of pianist Daniel (Adolfo Fernandez) and gallery owner Ana (Blanca Apilanez) is in its death throes, the two of them uncertain about whether they are still together. Meanwhile, their daughter, Monica (Barbara Lennie), is unsuccessfully looking for work and wondering where her relationship with b.f. David (Alberto Ferreiro) is going. One day, she sees Daniel in the street with another woman — in fact, his lover, Clara (Emma Vilarasau).

Locked out of her house one night, Monica seeks refuge at Daniel’s and finds him there with Clara. A couple of hours later, Ana turns up, looking for Maria. The encounter suggests to Monica that all is not as she thinks, and she spends the rest of pic disturbing skeletons in closets.

Script is admirably non-judgmental and, interestingly, it’s the more mature characters who come over as the most confused. But overall treatment is flat, with nobody speaking above a mutter. Helmer Felipe Vega has previously shown he can transmit subtle dramatic registers, but his desire to convey emotional truths mostly sacrifices any sense of drama.

Though Daniel is never explicitly brutal, thesp Fernandez conveys well how the character has unwittingly dealt great emotional damage to those around him. Apilanez, as the primary victim, offers a more incisive perf as Ana, a woman struggling to liberate herself from Daniel’s dark charms. As their emotionally uncertain daughter, Lennie is unfocused.

Score is, appropriately, delicate extracts from Chopin’s “Nocturnes.”

Women in the Park

Spain

Production: An Alta Classics release of a Tornasol Films production, with participation of TVE. (International sales: Latido Films, Madrid.) Produced by Gerardo Herrero. Directed by Felipe Vega. Screenplay, Manuel Hidalgo, Vega.

Crew: Camera (color), Alfonso Parra; editor, Angel Hernandez Zoido; art director, Sandra Frantz; sound (Dolby Digital), Juan Borrell. Reviewed at Cine Princesa, Madrid, Jan. 16, 2007. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Adolfo Fernandez, Blanca Apilanez, Emma Vilarasau, Barbara Lennie, Alberto Ferreiro, Javier Albala.

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