“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 2001 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Juan J. Campanella / Actors: Ricardo Darin, Hector Alterio, Norma Aleandro, Natalia Verbeke, Eduardo Blanco ... / DVD released 2006-06-12 at Pathe Distribution / Features of the DVD: PAL, Widescreen „
** This is a film-only review **
Son of the Bride (El Hijo de la Novia) is an Argentinian film made in 2001 and directed by Juan Jose Campanella. It was nominated for an Oscar in 2002 for Best Foreign Language Film.
** Synopsis **
42-year-old Rafael Belvedere is verging on a mid-life crisis. His hectic job running his family's Italian restaurant in Buenos Aires is becoming increasingly stressful and corporate sharks keep turning up and trying to buy him out. He is not getting on well with his girlfriend, Nati, while his relationship with his ex-wife has descended into a tug-of-war over their young daughter, Victoria, and the little girl is becoming visibly unhappy and withdrawn as a result. At the same time Rafael feels guilty about having fallen out with his mother, Norma, who is now in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's. When Rafael's father says he finally wants a church wedding with Norma after 44 years of civil marriage, the father and son clash and everything becomes too much for Rafael: he has a heart attack.
Having spent a few weeks in intensive care, Rafael comes out of hospital with a new perspective on his life and he sets about trying to make some changes, however difficult they may be.
** My opinion **
This is a funny and touching film about relationships and reconciliation, love and loss and all the complications that modern family life can bring. It is unbearably sad in parts but does not get too bogged down in tragedy and ends on a positive note without being too overly sentimental. It is balanced out by several very funny scenes but its overall tone is more drama than comedy. I found it absorbing, engrossing and heartwarming and the two hours flew by very quickly.
Ricardo Darín's performance as Rafael is strong and carries the whole film. I found the character quite irritating at the beginning, which shows that Darín has done his job well, since Rafael does not become a particularly likeable person until later on in the film. I was occasionally confused by his facial expressions - sometimes he looks as though he's smiling when he's supposed to be in pain - but I think this is just a quirk of his facial features and I quickly got used to it.
Héctor Alterio as Rafael's father Nino is a delight to watch. He is utterly believable as an old man still deeply in love with his wife and prepared to give up the strongly-held principles of his youth (no Church wedding) in order to give his wife what she always hankered after as a young woman. There is a lightness in Alterio's step and a sense of joy in his expression that belie his age.
I also found Norma Aleandro very good as the Alzheimer sufferer Norma. Her performance is understated but still touching. This role could easily have been over-exaggerated but is played with dignity by the actress.
My few minor criticisms of the film would be that the character of Rafael is a bit too whiny (his problems pale in comparison to those of his friend Juan Carlos, who has suffered a major bereavement, but that doesn't stop Rafael moaning and complaining to him). Rafael's relationship with his girlfriend seemed utterly unconvincing to me - they have problems and are on the verge of breaking up throughout the film then their reconciliation is glossed over and not explained properly. I also found the actress who played Rafael's daughter Victoria wrongly cast. Though she plays the part fairly well she seems too old for the role (though strangely she has the voice of a toddler which doesn't fit with her appearance!).
Despite these few niggles, I really enjoyed the film all in all. Its themes are universal and treated sensitively and with humour, which is probably why it received an Oscar nomination. Incidentally, it was this director, Campanella, who won this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his new thriller The Secret in their Eyes.
Runtime 124 minutes
Currently available on Amazon for £4.99 (in Spanish with English subtitles)