My husband isn’t a big movie watcher, so when he comes home with a DVD he’s rented, it’s kind of a big deal. Getting to hang out with him on the couch and watch a flick is a rare treat, so I’m always game for anything he picks out.
By the time we got around to watching this British film, a few days after he rented it, he couldn’t remember anything about the plot description other than the fact someone quoted on the DVD box had compared it to Memento. That plus the opening credits, featuring names like Gael García Bernal and James D’Arcy, though, and I was IN.
The first hour definitely had us puzzled, but not in a Memento sort of way. It was more a “Memento?!” sort of way, as in: since when is Memento a somewhat cheesy, wholly predictable (albeit sweet) romance about a love triangle? You see, the story initially appears to be about a feisty young Spanish woman, Carmen, who has just gotten engaged to her wealthy, if a bit dull, British boyfriend Barnaby (D’Arcy). They’ve only been dating six months, but he’s clearly crazy for her. And she? Well, she’s done “passion” before and that guy ended up hurting her. At least Barnaby is kind. Close enough, she decides.
“Close enough,” that is, until she meets Brazilian sweetheart Kit Winter (Bernal, in his first English-speaking role) on her “hen night” (bachelorette party). For Kit, it’s love at first sight, and he soon starts showing up at her workplace, asking her out for coffee, and then accidentally getting her fired (oops). At first, Carmen resists, wanting to stay where she is — at peace with her decision to marry Barnaby and get on with her life. But she can’t deny a powerful spark between herself and Kit, and her resistance ends up being futile (SHE IS BORG) (she is not really Borg). The night she and Barnaby marry, they have a massive fight and Barnaby angrily tells her to leave. Carmen runs to Kit for comfort, and, well, you and your imagination can take it from there. (Hint: smooches.)
That scene, though, is when this movie suddenly flips onto its ear and becomes another beast entirely. I ain’t sayin’ a word about what comes next, but while I still don’t quite see the Memento connection, I did find the multiple plot twists in the last act pretty crafty. They’re wickedly mean-spirited too, but while psychological cruelty exhibited at the end of this film is something I usually have a hard time watching (I’m cool with chopping people’s heads off with chain saws, but shame and humiliation is excruciatingly painful for me to watch), the movie is clearly meant to be darkly comic, and the end turns the whole thing into more of a revenge fable than a movie about true human nastiness. It was more deliciously evil than “my god, people SUCK” evil. For me, anyway.
Though the beginning of this film is a little on the clunky, cutesy side, the sharp shifts in the last twenty minutes made the kissy-kissy stuff worth sitting through (though, in retrospect, I’d’ say the end was a bit on the overdone side — still, it was certainly fun in the moment). Plus, I love Gael García Bernal, and I totally have a huge girl-crush on Natalia Verbeke’s delightfully dimpled grin now as well. SHE. IS. ADORABLE.
Surprisingly entertaining and well worth a rental if you can track it down. Trust me, you’ll never see the end coming. No-ho-ho way. (To see it coming, you’d have to be a viciously evil bastard yourself, and surely none of MY readers are viciously evil bastards. Right? RIGHT?!)
Recommended! Watch it with someone you love. Or something.
Genre: Thriller, Romance?
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Natalia Verbeke, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Charlie Cox, Yves Aubert