Spanish

March 2020

The Platform (El Hoyo)

– gruesome spanish-language horror begs for dissection and analysis as it portrays a hierarchical class system in a barren, despairing prison called The Hole. Excessively violent and graphic, and cursed with a frustrating ending, but still thought provoking.

February 2020

Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria)

– Mournful Spanish-language drama is a beautiful if overly ponderous reflection on life and love and the sickness of nostalgia.

December 2019

The Two Popes

– delightfully warm reflection on the transition from Pope Benedict to Pope Francis, featuring immense performances from both Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, and a witty script.

Time Share (Tiempo Compartido)

– bizarre, surrealist drama sees a family forced to share a villa at a holiday resort. Something sinister is afoot, but it’s never exactly clear what. Confounding in all the wrong ways.

August 2019

Green Frontier (Frontera Verde) (S01) (TV)

– Afraid to say I gave up on this after a few episodes. Beautiful scenery, but the pace is paralysingly slow, the script and premise both vague and unconvincing, and the lead actress is nearly devoid of emotion. Life is too short.

The Son (El Hijo)

– This film had so much potential. The premise is delightfully deranged, albeit not fleshed out enough, and the cast are strong, but it fails in its plodding execution, and unwillingness to assert any definitive plot details. Its implications and suggestions, whilst initially intriguing, grow irksome, and the open ending feels lazy rather than suspenseful. It’s a shame, because it hints at a much more successful thriller.

May 2019

Even the Rain (Todavía La Lluvia)

– Engaging spanish language drama with a cast that is strong enough to warrant the viewing alone. Gabriel Garcia Bernal is always an extraordinary screen presence, and he’s wonderful here.

March 2019

Todos Lo Saben (Everybody Knows)

– effective but unsatisfying Spanish drama that teases mystery then vexingly abandons it half way through. Worth watching for the excellent performances.

Mirage (Durante La Tormenta)

– This Spanish time travel thriller is engaging enough and fun to watch unfold, but its production feels low-fi and the story and acting are hammy.

December 2018

Orbiter 9

– albeit low budget, this is a very good, original spanish sci-fi with tight editing and direction and convincing performances. Recommended.

November 2018

Elite S01 (TV)

– glossy teenage trash with the usual spanish melodrama

September 2018

Sunday’s Illness (La Enfermedad de Domingo)

– quietly affecting, understated spanish drama. Engrossing, but not remarkable.

Fariña (Cocaine Coast) S01 (TV)

– a spanish language narcotics soap opera, a telenovela in every respect but production values. The story is predictable, character behaviours stupid, and every episode follows the exact same formula: risk of arrest being averted by a litany of increasingly absurd coincidences, contrivances, and deus ex machinas. If it wasn’t for the love of the language, it’s unlikely I’d have watched past episode two, and all the warning signs are there in episode one. If you want an amazing thriller about drug trafficking, there are so many to choose from, don’t choose this one.

7 Boxes (Siete Cajas)

– fresh and exciting spanish language thriller exploring the chaotic events of one night in a Paraguayan market when a boy is asked to transport 7 crates of unknown merchandise across the town. Brilliant, fast paced and often funny, with a great soundtrack and creative camera work.

August 2018

Verónica

– fairly average spanish horror movie. Not scary in the least, so it fails on that point, but it’s no less entertaining, and some of the script is very humorous, particularly from Verónica’s younger siblings who do an admirable job treading the line between amusing and annoying.

The Warning (El Aviso)

– mercifully short and mostly engaging spanish thriller. Everything about it is either bog standard or subpar, and there’s little to really recommend it, but the story is intriguing enough to keep you guessing. The premise is never explained or justified and one can’t help but think a better film could have been made.

July 2018

El Otro Hermano (The Lost Brother/ The Other Brother)

– Grisly Spanish crime drama, protracted but compelling if only to see how the whole nasty, twisted tale unravels. Very effective understated soundtrack.

Palmeras en la Nieve (Palm Trees in the Snow)

– Absolute balls. Eye-rolling and cringe inducing melodrama. Nauseatingly saccharine, self-indulgent, badly edited and painfully ponderous (with a runtime that’s an exercise in audience tolerance). Among its other crimes, it somehow depicts the Spanish as the victims of their own colonial era in Guinea. Quite the feat.

June 2018

The Silence of the Sky (O Silêncio do Céu)

– affecting and unpleasant spanish language drama, too doleful to be enjoyable

Grupo 7 (Unit 7)

– Spanish language police drama about a corrupt police unit who terrorise the locals to make arrests and increasingly antagonise the community with violent results. Polished, but simply not engaging enough to recommend highly. Elite Squad and its sequel delivered the same concept much more convincingly and enjoyably.

The Motive (El Autor)

– Spanish psychological drama following a man who becomes so obsessive about writing his novel he manipulates his neighbours to engineer increasingly outlandish storylines. Mostly compelling but becomes increasingly absurd and farcical as it wears on. The ending is disappointingly prosaic.

January 2018

Killing Words (Palabras encadenadas)

– average Spanish-language crime thriller

La Casa De Papel

– what starts as a trashy Spanish heist thriller turns borderline unbearable as the plot twists itself into a ludicrous, inconsistent and often nonsensical mess. Then after 13 absurd episodes, the season ends abruptly and unsatisfyingly. Unless season two is a work of utter genius, I cannot recommend this.

November 2017

El Bar

– often agonisingly difficult to watch, this spanish black comedy thriller is mostly unfunny, gratuitous, and poorly produced. One to avoid.

August 2017

Mar de Plastico S01E01 (TV)

– spanish attempt at scandinoir falls flat with glossy casting, a tactless script and infuriatingly stupid plot oversights (generously not called ‘holes’)

Boy Missing

– Perhaps the worst Spanish language film I’ve seen. Chaotic, badly scripted, acted, directed; a total waste of time. Baffled that Jose Coronado put his name to it.

June 2017

To Steal From A Thief (Cien Años de Perdon)

– hugely disappointing, chaotic and superficial heist thriller. Engaging, but utterly devoid of substance.

December 2016

Seven Years (7 Años)

– unexpectedly engaging single room, minimal cast drama. Sparks fly and intrigue grips even past the end.

September 2016

Musarañas (Shrew’s Nest)

– unpleasant spanish horror, more menacing than gratuitous. Good film, if you like the unlikeable.

April 2016

Miss Bala

– slightly gratuitous spanish language cartel thriller. Oddly sparsely scripted, with the titular character cowering from bullets in lingerie for most of the film. Not recommended.

March 2016

Wakolda

– suspenseful and interesting drama in part Germana and part Spanish. Slightly underwhelming but a good watch nonetheless.

January 2016

El Niño

– Disappointing drugs running thriller, especially following the brilliant Cell 211. Not Luis Tosar’s finest hour.

September 2015

Narcos (TV)

– Fast paced (perhaps too fast paced), drug cartel crime thriller charting Pablo Escobar rise and fall from power in Colombia. Sharp acting and excellent direction, it’s a minor pity that the script frequently borders on US propaganda. Terrific TV though.

June 2015

Colosio: El Asesinato

– Fantastic spanish language crime thriller exploring theories surrounding the assassination of Colosio, the Mexican presidential candidate in 1994.

El Chapulín Colorado (TV)

– old school slapstick silliness in spanish.

May 2015

El Gran Hotel (S01) (TV)

– gossipy, trashy, farcical – there is little to redeem this spanish period drama bar its language. If I wasn’t making an effort to learn spanish, I wouldn’t touch this with a barge pole.

March 2015

La Isla Minima (Marshland)

– superb spanish thriller, dark and layered. Similar to True Detective in style and tone.

December 2014

The Devil’s Backbone

– entirely in Spanish on this viewing, consequently it was a lot less impactful: my spanish leaves a lot to be desired!

September 2014

La Habitacion del Niño

– the first half of this spanish B-movie is one of the most hilarious black comedies I have seen, whilst the second reverts to genre stereotypes and predictable twists. It’s a lot of fun though, and to some degree an original haunted house thriller.

Live Flesh (Carne Tremula)

– Well crafted Spanish drama from Almodovar. Excellent acting and solid plot. Filled with the usual Almodovar tropes and on the nose political statements though.

Carancho

– one of the most boring Spanish films I have watched. Dreary and uneventful drama, not worth the time.

No Rest For The Wicked (No habrá paz para los malvados)

– outstanding and offensively underrated spanish crime thriller. Powerhouse acting and superb direction. Deserves further viewing.

August 2014

El Cuerpo

– Excellent, brilliantly directed and shot macabre thriller with a twist that will genuinely surprise, albeit largely due to its implausibility. Unmissable spanish language.

Cronica de una Fuga (Buenos Aires, 1977)

– Intense and serious, perhaps too dry. Lacks the poetry and artistry of similar films, though remains a harrowing fly-on-the-wall spanish language drama.

La Cara Oculta

– Disappointing Spanish thriller that is engrossing but ultimately unrewarding.

Fermat’s Room

– Engrossing and enjoyable spanish thriller that takes one too many twists and finds itself stranded, but remains a fun ride.

Blackthorn

– Dry, slow burning neo-Western drama that is surprisingly affecting, particularly as it isn’t especially gripping. Sam Shepherd is good, and predominantly speaks Spanish throughout.

Mientras Duermes

– One of the nastiest, most insidious, and repulsive Spanish films I have ever had the displeasure of watching. A solid pic, well directed, well acted and utterly horrible.

El Habitante Incierto (The Uninvited Guest)

– Hitchcockian spanish language thriller, full of intrigue, novelty and witty black humour. Utterly bizarre and all the better for it.

June 2013

Before Night Falls (Antes que Anochezca)

– told episodically, this biographical drama isn’t easy viewing. It is slow and long and feels longer still. That said, it is well made and well acted. If you like poetic cinema, Javier Bardem and the melody of spanish, then this might hold something for you.

Goya’s Ghosts

– Although frustratingly contrived, this is a controversial (and therefore exciting) tale set during the end of the Spanish inquisition, recounting the lives of an artist and two of his subjects as one epoch ends and another begins. Direction and performances are tight, but one can’t help but feel the script deliberately errs on the side of provocative and suffers for it.

April 2013

Los Santos Inocentes

– A harrowing recollection of the lives of an impoverished family in Spain in the 1960s as they toil as underlings on a bourgeois country estate. Tragically historically accurate.

March 2013

El Aura (The Aura)

– Intriguing spanish thriller. Compelling albeit peculiarly paced and with a few loose ends left trailing. Thoughtful cinema, but perhaps trying to tackle one too many strands for its own good. Recommended, but not highly.

Lucia y el sexo (Sex and Lucia)

– moments of artistry go some way to redeem what is otherwise a meandering, occasionally gratuitous mess of a film. This desnuda approach to filmmaking has perhaps scarred Spanish cinema somewhat.

February 2013

The Spanish Prisoner

– A classic Mamet heist flick – totally underwhelming, devoid of any thrills or skillful twists. Watchable, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

No

– An excellent, mild and uncontroversial historical drama about the ad campaign that overthrew Pinochet in Chile. Great acting and a subtle, dry script make for compelling viewing.

May 2012

Hierro

– Haunting and unsettling, but just doesn’t quite cut the grade for usual Spanish horrors

December 2011

The Secret in their Eyes

– groundbreaking spanish thriller with superb direction and acting

[Rec]

– spanish horror, fairly standard but some pleasant au frisson