Thursday, August 25, 2005


Title: Astronautas
Cast: Nancho Novo, Teresa Hurtado
Director:Santi Amodeo

When we meet Daniel he is locked in a barn, having paid to shepherds to make sure he stays there till he has come off of heroin. A 40 year-old man, with poor job prospects, recovering from 10 years of addiction, and determined to get his act together. While he may currently be clean, and following his own 10 step plan towards recovery, his doctor has no idea who he is, and things are a little rocky. This makes him a somewhat unpredictable man, given to fits of anger. So when Laura, a runaway girl, turns up on his doorstep, looking for her brother who lives next door to Daniel, he flies off the handle. But desperate to get his life in order, he gradually lets her in, and persuades her to help him.

Astronautas is a curious Spanish comedy from 2003, showing as one of a handful of films from the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2005 to be shown in Glasgow. There are points of comparison to Requiem For A Dream and perhaps Trainspotting - with the drug references, and the hallucinogenic scenes that result from trying to come clean. The animated sequences which define the ten step programme and offer odd little chapter headings are particularly reminiscent of the quirks of Requiem For A Dream. Though I haven't seen Breakfast At Tiffany's, I would suggest that the tagline "Think Breakfast At Tiffany's, only with methadone instead of martinis..." being used by the festival, is somewhat misleading - not least because there is no reference to methadone at any point.

But once the film gets going, the quirks in the film really come from the relationship between the 40-year-old ex-junkie and the 15-year-old runaway. A kind of odd couple relationship, as they play off each other, feeling out the limits and scope of who they are and how they interact. Filled with nice little scenes, like when Laura builds herself a bed out of books, or when Daniel takes care of his vinyl LPs, or when the two of them walk down the street together - him in his tweed coat, her in the bright red furry coat she shoplifted.

The film stars Nacho Novo as Daniel, one of the most well known Spanish actors, at least as far as I concerned - he appeared in two of Julio Medem's films (Red Squirrel and Lovers Of The Arctic Circle) and one of Pedro Almodóvar's (The Flower Of My Secret). By contrast this is the debut by Teresa Hurtado who plays Laura. This is the third film to be written and directed by Santi Amodeo, though it is the first that I have seen. As director he offers some nice touches, the way the camera follows the spinning records, the little animated sections which reflect the stages of Daniel's recovery and his previous work as an artist and poet.

Astronautas is a quirky film, full of character, with good performances from its two leads, which I quite enjoyed.

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