Ten Days Without Love



El Cielo Abierto (‘The Open Sky’) : Spain 2001
director : Miguel Albaladejo
script : Albaladejo, Elvira Lindo
cinematography : Alfonso Sanz Alduan
editing : Angel Hernandez Zoido, Ascen Marcha
music : Lucio Godoy
lead actors : Sergi Lopez, Mariola Fuentes, Maria Jose Alfonso, Geli Albaladejo
107 minutes

A low-key but likeable comedy-drama about modern relationships: romantic, family, working and social. Miguel (Lopez) is a Madrid psychiatrist who’s wife has just run off with his own father. As if this wasn’t enough, he must accommodate his frosty mother-in-law Elvira (Alfonso) while she’s in town for medical treatment, and then his wallet is stolen by one of his junkie patients. But when Miguel gets to know Jazmina (Fuentes), the thief’s feisty sister, it isn’t long before friendship deepens into something more serious.

This isn’t exactly a complicated story – but the lack of melodrama is definitely a plus. Miguel is prone to self-doubt and he’s a little too passive for his own good, but he’s far from being any kind of sad loser. Likewise, while Jazmina and her extended family – she shares a ‘ghetto’ apartment with her elderly grandparents, her three siblings and her young nephew – are clearly much less well-off than Miguel and Elvira, they aren’t poverty-stricken. But there’s enough of a class gulf between the couple for Albaladejo and co-scripter Lindo (who has a droll cameo as a kleptomaniac) to make some telling contrasts. While Miguel’s trendy flat fits exactly with his austere only-child background, Jazmina’s chaotic household has the distinct feeling of rough real life going on beyond the limits of the frame, largely thanks to the spot-on characterisation of her sister Tatiana and brother Rober (Felix Alvarez).

Lopez is the real star turn, however, confirming the vast promise of his breakthrough turn in last year’s Harry, He’s Here To Help. While Harry was a relentlessly suave, charming (French) sociopath, Miguel languishes at the opposite end of the self-confidence scale, his ‘dishy doctor’ appearance distinctly skin deep. He’s no match for all these formidable women – Elvira, Jazmina, his mouthy receptionist Carola (Geli Albaladejo, director’s sister) – but it’s intriguing that he never shares screen time with errant wife Sara (Marcela Wallerstein), who only appears in the very last scene in a typically wry twist: there are few actual belly laughs in Ten Days, but humour is seldom far away. As a director, Albaladejo breaks no new ground, and he does occasionally overdo it with the tinkly bittersweet piano score, but so what? He’s crafted a generous, warm, accessible little movie – even if neither Spanish nor English titles make much sense.

25th October, 2001
(seen Oct-25-01, National Film Theatre – London Film Festival)

by Neil Young
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