DARA OF JASENOVAC – movie review

DARA OF JASENOVAC
101 Studios
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Predrag Antonijevic
Writer: Natasa Drakulic
Cast: Bilijana Cekic, Vuk Kostic, Nikolina Jelivasac, Igor Djordjevic, Natasa Ninkovic, Petar Zekavica
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 1/17/21
Opens: February 5, 2021

Movie detail page | Fairfax, VA | DARA OF JASENOVAC

Some astute filmgoers might dismiss “Dara of Jasenovac” as a course in Holocaust 101, a film that might have been designed primarily for the forty percent of Americans who never heard of the Holocaust and a few others who might be admirers of the Nazi extermination camps as shown in the attempted coup at our national capitol. However, Predrag Antonijevic’s film is unique in its coverage of the concentration camps of the independent state of Croatia, a country created by the ultra-nationalistic, racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, anti-Serb Ustashe.
Director Antonijevic, born in Nis, Serbia, Yugoslavia in 1959, whose “Breaking at the Edge” is a horror film about a woman whose unborn child could be killed were she not to avenge a supernatural entity, now takes on a far greater horror rather than one affecting just a single person. And this one is based however sadly on true events. In doing so, he personalizes the story by focusing partly on Dara (Bilijana Cekic) in her debut performance as a ten-year-old, determined not only to survive the terror of a concentration camp but to stick by her infant brother Bude Ilic come hell or high water.

And hell could hardly be more horrific than the large concentration camp of Jasenovac, the only camp set up independent of German control during the war, though a German adviser or two may visit the premises to advise the Ustashe commanders. When one German wonders why the Ustashe do not concentrate on “just Jews and Roma,” he is told that the others are imprisoned there simply because “they are Serbs.” So these Ustashe s.o.b’s are into all the accoutrements of Nazi ideology, in this case that the purity of Croatian blood must be preserved against the alleged manipulations of others who supposedly run the gamut from having exclusive control of the media to being sub-humans sucking the pure blood of the Croatian people.

One may well imagine that Natasa Drakulic, who scripted the story, aims to show that the Jasenovic camp was even more brutal than Auschwitz since the inmates were not only worked to death but killed gleefully by the commanders—who include women who are no less sadistic than the men. Examples abound. During a game of musicals chairs, to which the Serb inmate musicians are directed to knock out a Serb folk song, the commandant would raise his hands to stop the music. The prisoner who is left without a chair is killed. Then two chairs are taken away—fun and games. The two unfortunate people are stabbed in the neck as well. Finally, all the “winners” become losers, gunned down as though the Croatian officers are playing a video game.

Another method of killing involves shooting anyone who tries to escape, running toward a river that would take a prisoner to safety. A bunch of children are taken to a basement while the Croatian hurls a can of poisonous gas. Kapos help out, just as they did in the German-led camps, keeping lists of names and turning select people over.
While this is going on, the ten-year-old Dara must learn to be strong. She is as determined to protect her young brother as she is to stay alive, prepared to give her own life is needed to ensure the safety of the boy.

The activities by the prisoners in running the camp like a farm by grinding the corn, feeding the pigs, looks more like make-work before the killings, the entire film hitting you with the dangers of ultra-nationalism, the kind of ideology that enjoyed a bit of a run of the previous administration and featured the invasion of our nation’s capitol, with the ensuing risk to the lawmakers of being taken hostage or killed. Credit must be given to the cast of non-professional actors from whom director Peter “Gaga” Antonijevic evokes skillful performances. “Dara of Jasenovac is filmed by Milos Kodemo in the villages of Kolut and Bela Crkva, Serbia.

In Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles.

130 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

THERE IS NO EVIL

THERE IS NO EVIL (Sheytan Vojud Nadarad)
Kino Lorber
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Mohammad Rasoulof
Writer: Mohammad Rasoulof
Cast: Ehsan Mirhosseini, Shaghayegh Shourian, Kaveh Ahangar, Mohammad Valizadegan, Mahtab Servati, Mohammad Seddighimehr, Baran Rasoulof, Jilla Shahi
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 5/4/21
Opens: May 14, 2021

There Is No Evil - Wikipedia

Jean-Paul Sartre once said that “It is only in our decisions that we are important.” “There Is No Evil” is a feature film with four stories, unrelated to one another except in the theme of how decisions make each central character important. The first three deal with executions in Iran: how the principal character in each story makes up his mind whether to go along with orders or to defy them, which tells us much about the writer-director, Mohammad Rasoulof, who has been sentenced to prison and whose every feature film has been banned from exhibition in his country.

One can see how the absolutist government of Iran would not want citizens exposed to people who make personal decisions to override what others expect of them or, in one case, to go along without compunction to perform a task that few of us would agree to voluntarily.

The first episode is untitled, and though this is the one that has the least melodrama, it has the most effect. Rasoulof respects his audience to the extent that he will show his protagonist, Heshmat (Ehsan Mirhosseini), driving around Tehran, seemingly aimless, with no consequential occurrences anticipated. When he picks up his schooolteacher wife Razieh (Shaghayegh Shourian), she bickers and complains about little things, projecting the ease with which she trusts her husband not to go ballistic with anything she says. She picks up his check in the bank, complaining about red tape that she must go through to have the salary released to her. Razieh must wonder what he does on the night shift when he gets up at three in the morning and pulls away with his car. When he goes about his task without thinking or considering its ethics, we know more about him than his wife does.

The second installment, with the title “She said, you can do it,” is the kind of episode that a general American audience would like given the histrionics that take place in a military detention center. In Rasoulot’s most theatrical story given how much of the action unfolds inside the barracks among a group of soldiers, Pouya (Kaveh Ahangar) trusts his fellows to sympathize with his terror. He has been ordered to execute a man by pushing the stool out from under him, which would result in the man’s death by hanging. But his fellows, with one exception, debate as though in a college freshman bull session about whether a person under orders has the right, even the duty, to disobey if he considers the order immoral. When the time comes for Pouya to obey, which would give him the chance to be released from the prison and get some time off, we leave the theatrical in favor of upheaval.

In “The Birthday,” Javad (Mohammad Valizadegan), a soldier with a three-day pass takes a bath in the woods before visiting his fiancée, Nana (Mahtab Servati). We can see that the immersion in water is a self-designed baptism: the news he feels compelled to give is hardly designed to allow her and her family to reconsider whether his visit is a good one. Sometimes the less you say—becoming more like Heshmat in the first episode—is the most desirable way to go. In any case, going back to Sartre’s quote “It is only in our decisions that we are important,” Javad becomes the man of the hour: his fifteen minutes of fame or infamy.

“Kiss Me” is unusual in that it does not feel it belongs with the other three under the theme of executions. Bahram (Mohammad Seddighimehr), is a dying man who lives with his wife Zaman (Jilla Shahi) in a remote area cut off from other people but immersed in the raising of bees. He picks up his young niece Darya (Baran Rasoulof, who is the director’s daughter) on a visit from Germany where she lives with Bahram’s brother. She becomes attached to Bahram, disturbed when he coughs up blood, and could have returned to Germany with tender views of her uncle. However, there is tension in the air. We wait for an announcement that will change the college girl’s attitude forever. Given the overlong running time of the film, “Kiss Me” could have easily been left for a future narrative, assuming that the next offering could be smuggled out of the country like this one. We can see how in an absolutist nation like Iran, none of the writer-director’s films have been exhibited at home.

150 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

SCREENED OUT – movie review

SCREENED OUT
Dark Star Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Jon Hyatt
Screenwriter: Jon Hyatt, Karina Rotenstein
Cast: Jon Hyatt, Alicia Dupuis, Jim Steyer, Syd Bolton, Adam Alter, Jean Twenge, Hilarie Cash, Alex Pang, Ramsay Brown, Mihael Rich, Nir Eyal, Nicholas Kardaras
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 5/22/20
Opens: May 26, 2020

Screened Out (2020)

One glaring omission from Jon Hyatt’s blandly informative but virtually humorless documentary “Screened Out” is the name Donald J. Trump. CBS news the other day reported that since he took office, he has sent out 50,000 tweets. Was he stupid before computers and the internet were even invented, or did he become the way he is because of all the screen time that he indulges? But wait: his addiction to Twitter may accord with  Hyatt’s thesis that excessive time on smart [sic] phones and computers will mess with your brain, so to the president’s credit, he announced that because Twitter is now fact-checking his tweets for accuracy and truth, he will do what he can to shut the company down. You go, man. Less Twitter, more time for engaging directly with life.

While I do not even have a Twitter account, I was not born into the computer age, so I cannot fully comprehend that men and women below the age of thirty (when home computers started to takeoff) are so dependent on this technology. On Memorial Day, the folks spending six to nine hours daily “talking” to their thousand Facebook friends, retweeted a video of a woman who lost her six-figure job because her racist comments were caught. Thirty million people had seen the altercation when the video went viral (Ugh, that word again). Heaven known how much time many of these followers are spending on their devices rather than looking flesh-and-blood people in the eye and talking to them or gaining genuine wisdom about life by reading “War and Peace” instead.

Other points left out by the doc include the more concrete danger of distraction on your screens while driving your car, resulting in giving some pedestrians nasty bumps, or that of great armies of mostly young people glued to their phones and slamming into people on the sidewalk or falling from cliffs. Still, co-writer and director Hyatt knows whereof he speaks since he was (is?) himself a screen addict. Many years earlier he would play out in the yard with kids his own age, having a ball, learning how to relate directly to others while getting the sufficient amount of vitamin D that others are missing. He now spends more time reading the fiction that was crowded out because of his addiction while his wife has been unable to kick the screen habit. Imagine guys and gals in college assigned to read “Jane Eyre” but glancing every ten minutes at the phone when hearing the buzz or ring or theme song from “Gone with the Wind.” As one talking head advises, multi-tasking does not work.

Among the gems delivered from the documentary which I was watching on my computer when I could have been re-reading “Jane Eyre,” is the concept of intermittent rewards. When a pigeon gets a pellet of food each time it (or he or she) pecks at a button, the bird is rewarded. Soon, however, the pigeon gives up, winded. Everything’s too predictable. When the pigeon does not know which peck at the button will release the food (the mechanism is programmed to release the pellet intermittently), the bird retains excitement. In that regard slot machines keep people glued not because they win a fortune every time they swing the one arm—that would be boring albeit enriching—they are fascinated by wondering when or if the quarters will bounce into the slot. So is it that when people hear the ping of the phone (or the opening bars of “Twist and Shout” as sung by Ferris Bueller), they will salivate at the thought that the texter’s message may be more interesting than their Social Studies teacher’s talk on the Congress of Vienna.

The documentary barely presents another point of view, so intent is Hyatt to list and elaborate the many dangers of social media and other plagues. He might have said that video games improve cognitive function and motor skills, and that at least the youths are reading words. On the other hand, teen suicide is way up since technology allows them to compare their miserable lives with the bragging from their peers who are equally miserable. Then again there’s bullying by callow adolescents, while in my day you could just grab a kid from the street who is half your weight and show him how much better you are.

How’s this for irony. When this movie shown on your computer ends, you get to click, or not click, the button “like.” I thought and debated and meditated and clicked it.

71 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B- (near absence of animation)
Overall – B

EVERYBODY KNOWS – movie review

EVERYBODY KNOWS (Todos lo saben)
Focus Features
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net by: Harvey Karten
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Screenwriter: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernandez, Barbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 1/23/19
Opens: February 8, 2019

Todos lo saben Movie Poster

The long-running TV series “Cheers” features the bar as a character in its own right, the bar where everybody knows your name. Many of us would be overjoyed to meet almost daily in a place so friendly, but there is a limit. If everybody knows your name, that’s fine. But would you like everybody to know everything about you? This is the situation in Torrelaguna, an autonomous region of Spain’s Madrid community where Asghar Farhadi’s latest film was photographed. It has the small-town ambiance despite its proximity to the nation’s capital, a fair-sized segment of land given over to a vineyard which is co-owned by Paco (Javier Bardem), a gentleman who will figure greatly in the plot.

“Everybody Knows” is the first movie in Spanish from the Iranian director. Farhadi, whose principal work in my opinion is “A Separation”—about whether a couple will provide a better life for their child by moving out of Iran or whether they should stay in their home country to treat a father with dementia—this time focuses on a large community involving an extended family, groups of neighbors, and an assortment of grade pickers working in a vineyard. At first, the film could be taken as a lively documentary about how people celebrate a wedding, the family members drinking as they would in just about any event of its kind. This looks like a group that seem as close and friendly as you would hope to have in your neighborhood. But when a kidnapping occurs, fissions become active, leading to fights involving Antonio (Ramón Barea), the elderly father of Laura (Penélope Cruz), who is said to have gambled away his share of the vineyard.

Imagine yourself at a large wedding, a friend of the bride who has only a faint idea of the guests invited by the groom. This is the situation you’ll find yourself in while watching the celebration. Allow some time to figure out who is married to whom, who may have fathered someone outside of marriage, who is the young man flirting with the young woman, and then some. After a half hour or so, you’ll get an idea of how everyone fits in, especially the situations of Laura and her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín), who spend most of their time in Buenos Aires and travel up to Madrid only for special occasions and brief visits. Some of the principals are afflicted with problems of their own making. Old man Antonio—Laura’s father, remember?—is a drunk who lost his land. Alejandro is a friend of the bottle as well and is unemployed, having gone to Germany to look for a job without success. Paco has a secret life that everyone in the small community knows about.

The kidnapping of high-spirited Irene (Carla Campra), a teen who is drugged at the celebration and kidnapped by what looks like an inside job, is employed by writer-director Farhadi to turn the movie a psychological thriller while at the same time the crime is a catalyst to expose the family secrets. Some of the action borders on soap opera, but a more refined soap than you get on the afternoon TV shows here. When you think about the crime, you try to guess who from the wedding is involved. When you think about the families, you’re in the sphere, of course, of family drama. Dysfunction abounds. The crime aspects are gripping, enough so that you’ll barely notice that two and one-quarter hours have passed since you watched the opening credits amid the background of a church bell tower. Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem have the chemistry you’d expect from two first-grade actors who in real life are married to each other since 2010 (two children), while the entire ensemble portray their qualities in a flawless fashion. The two principals aside, there’s little doubt that “Everybody Knows” is an ensemble piece, eminently watchable, allowing us to project our own lives into the bittersweet muddle that comprise this fine drama.

133 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

EL ANGEL – movie review

EL ANGEL

The Orchard
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Luis Ortega
Screenwriters:  Luis Ortega, Rodolfo Palacios, Sergio Olguín
Cast:  Lorenzo Ferro, Chino Darín, Mercedes Moran, Cecilia Roth, Daniel Fanego, Luis Gnecco
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 10/30/18
Opens: November 9, 2018
El Ángel Movie Poster
After the murder of eleven synagogue congregants on 10/27/18 by Robert Bowers, some the grieving family contemplated his picture.  One fellow said, “He doesn’t look like the face of evil.”  Whether from comic books or movies or videogames, many of us think that killers look the part: smirking with scarred faces or showing Hitler-type mustaches, bulging eyes, maybe bad teeth and comb-over hair lines.   The reality is that criminals are likely to look like any of us: riding the subways, sitting before computers, relaxing in an easy chair.  The evil that men do lives after them, as Marc Antony said in “Julius Caesar,” but there is like to be no reflection on their faces.  Such is the case in spades when we consider Carlos Robledo Puch (Lorenzo Ferro), known to friends and family as Carlitos, because the title figure, the angel, looks like what we conceive to be the face of pure innocence.  Though in real life he killed eleven people and committed robbery forty-two times, this seventeen-year-old is hardly the typical angel—except perhaps the fallen angel known as Satan.  You will not find horns growing on Carlito’s head and if he has a tail he hides it well.  What’s more, instead of a pitchfork—which we’d have hoped he’d use—he has a collection of guns, any number of which he used to carry out his killing, sometimes holding the firearms in both hands as though a figure out of the Old West.

This story based on the true events in the life of Puch—who, having served over forty-six years in jail is Argentina’s longest-serving prisoner ever—is directed by Luis Ortega with an eye for letting us contemplate the possible effect of his attraction toward young men on his crimes—though no outright homosexual act is filmed.  The thirty-eight-year-old Buenos Aires writer-director Ortega, whose “Black Box” is more of a character study involving three people than a riveting look at crime, allows Lorenzo Ferro to anchor the movie.  Ferro, in his debut as an actor, is in virtually every scene, committing his robberies and murders without much of a motive except to have some fun.  The curly-haired seventeen-year-old partners up with Ramón Peralta (Chino Darin) while both are sharing a class in a vocational high school, his choice probably based on the handsome looks of a guy a year or two older whose attention Carlos craves.  The partnership is sealed after Carlos holds a Bunsen burner close to his classmate’s back, resulting in suffering a sharp punch to Carlos’s left cheek, and from then on they are fast friends and partners in crime.

Ramón’s role model is the young man’s father, José (Daniel Fanego) an ex-convict who shoots up through his ankles, married to  Ana (Mercedes Morán) who at one point tries to seduce Carlos as though playing Mrs. Robinson to Ben Braddock in “The Graduate.” We’re convinced that this Carlitos is the polar opposite of the type of person some of us believe killers resemble.

A string of holdups include the robbery of a couple of dozen guns, some necklaces and rings, and in one case the cracking open of a safe with surprising results.  Carlos, obviously a thrill-seeker rather than a needy individual (though in an early scene he sounds like a Marxist), has had a good upbringing with honest and caring parents Héctor (Luis Gnecco) and Aurora (Cecilia).  Both look after their boy, obviously overjoyed with the good lucks for which they may take credit, but the best upbringings do not necessarily lead to favorable results.

The robberies and murders are shown as capricious rather than based on a need to do away with witnesses to crimes.  In fact they are part of the teen’s need for attention and thrills.  A stolen car, one of which leads to a head-on collision that may or may not have been
accidental, becomes part of Carlos’s carelessness, a flaw that will lead to his capture and long-term imprisonment.

The film in Spanish with clear subtitles and a terrific soundtrack of over a dozen instrumentals, is Argentina’s entry into the 91st Academy Awards competition, a worthy effort that will cement your impression that lawbreakers, even of the extreme kind, can look like you and me and Robert Bowers.

118 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

DOUBTFUL – movie review

DOUBTFUL

Rogovin Brothers
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Eliran Elya
Screenwriter:  Eliran Elya
Cast:  Ran Danker. Yaakov Aderet, Osher Amara, Liron Ben-Shlush, Elroi Fass, Melodi Frank, Adar Hazazi Gersch, Shaley Girgin, Elad Hudara, Riki Hudara, Eli Menashe, Batel Moseri, Idan Naftali
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 5/28/18
Opens: June 3, 2018 at the Seattle International Film Festival
Doubtful
You might think that Israeli Jews have enough problems on their hands with Arabs inside Israel, in Gaza and in the West Bank; that they don’t have the time or the inclination to fight among themselves.  This is a doubtful premise.  There is probably not a nation in the world whose people live together in a Shangi La location, and that includes North Korea though we in the West have no idea how those folks get along with one another.  Now Eliran Elva, who wrote the script and directs “Doubtful,” uses the experience he has had with two shorts involving gunplay and the IDF, to give us his freshman full-length feature.  He gives us insight into the lives of people who are not the sort that you see in Israeli posters that show a solidarity of human beings unified by a common religion.  Instead his characters, eleven who are non-professional actors, play out a script about dysfunction in a small desert town in Beersheva.

The youths look like something out of “Blackboard Jungle” or “Precious,” with Ran Danker in the role of Sidney Poitier  and the ineffective Bill Sage respectively.  In this case Danker’s character, Assi, is himself an emotional wreck, sentenced to community service for drunk driving.  At one point he reminisces about his youth, about his failure to fit in, about being alone, playing alone, and now dealing with kids who are more scarred than he is.  His small class of students who in New York might fit into a special education class, are bored with everything except horsing around with each other, and who attend Assi’s new film-making class as a condition of their parole.

Assi will ultimately gain control and respect in the manner of many a movie about teachers perhaps in part because they recognize in him the similarities with themselves.  Though the theme is not a new one, “Doubtful” bears a look from an audience that might consider their own wild ideas and actions when they were younger, seeing at least some part of themselves in the teenagers here.  And the young people do quite a professional job acting out their anxieties and later filming an episode with a student director who yells “cut” with enthusiasm.  In fact Assi takes a special interest in Eden (Adar Hazazi Gersch) whose mother invites the teacher to her abode for some home cooked meals, leading Eden to hope that Assi is in love with her and could become his stepfather.

This is based on a true story, one with a sad ending that involves one character who executed an act far worse that whatever got him into trouble here.  Eliran Elya directs with an appropriately blunt style, encouraging the physicality and even the charm of these roughneck teens.  His script allows a three-dimensional look at the thirty-three year old Assi with some naturalistic scenes including the journey by bus and train from Tel Aviv to Beersheba.

Unrated.  88 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

TRUMAN – movie reveiw

  • TRUMAN

    Film Rise
    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
    Grade: B+
    Director:  Cese Gay
    Written by: Cese Gay, Tomas Aragay
    Cast: Ricardo Darín, Javier Cámara, Dolores, Fonzi, Eduard Fernandez, Alex Brendemuhl
    Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 3/11/17
    Opens: April 7, 2017
    Truman Movie Poster
    When H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s chief of staff, was diagnosed with cancer, he refused treatment based on his Christian Science faith.  One should not assume, though, that a person who has a terminal condition must be an acolyte of some religion to determine whether to treat it aggressiveness or not.  In the case of Cese Gay’s movie “Truman,” Julián (Ricardo Darín) is told that he has lung cancer which has spread.  Though the doctor recommends chemotherapy, he admits that further treatment will do nothing more than to buy the middle-aged man some time, so, like Haldeman, Julían, presumably a Roman Catholic, has his own way of dealing with the dread disease.

    Yet Julían is fortunate in having a friendship since childhood with Tomás (Javier Cámara), and the two find a way to say goodbye without Hollywood-style sentiment but obviously with hugs and good conversation before Julían an actor currently performing Molière in Madrid, makes his final exit.

    “Truman” is largely a two-hander that allows the dying man to make up for past indiscretions, as when he apologizes to a man whose wife he slept with and who has no problem greeting Julían in a restaurant. We see why: the cuckold is currently with a young squeeze undoubtedly better looking and more dynamic than the ex-wife.   As Tomás and Julían make the rounds of Madrid (mostly filmed in Barcelona), they stop in on a funeral salon, giving film director Cese Gay the opportunity to send up the pretensions of the profession.  Inquiring with the proprietor about the options, Julían is astonished that if he is cremated, he will fit inside a small urn, but insists that his ashes should not be tossed into the sea.  It’s cool that a man in what could be his last month on earth could joke.

    However, none of this is what is really bothering Julían.  He is worried that after his death, his loyal boxer Truman (Troilo)—who is so phlegmatic that it looks like he will predecease his human companion—nobody will be willing to adopt an old dog.  He even asks the vet for psychological insight: whether a dog can be depressed after the loss of his human.  This leads him to interview two women who seem to love dogs but who will prove unqualified.  (In a scene near the conclusion, he finds the ideal person to take the boxer off his hands.)

    Director Gay evokes the most drama when the two friend fly to Amsterdam to make a surprise visit on Nico (Oriol Pla) Julían’s son in college, where they meet his girlfriend.  Yet Julían decides not to tell the boy about his illness.

    Cesc Gay, whose “Nico and Dani” focus on two seventeen-year-olds with a beach house all to themselves and who enjoy a sexual awakening, this time is intent on showing what is probably a realistic portrait of a dying man’s actions and wishes. The film enjoys the male chemistry of the two pals with the input of Ricardo Darín, one of Argentina’s major actors today.  Poignant side roles involve José Luis Gomez as the theater director who fires Julían, Javier Gutierrez as the mortuary sales director, and Dolores Fonzi as Julían’s ex-girlfriend.

    Despite the subject matter, this is thankfully not one of those three-hanky Hallmark dramas, but a serio-comic look at a subject that many people simply refuse to talk about.

    Unrated.  109 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
    Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?