A Pesar De Todo – review (Netflix)

    Four sisters, Sara (Bianca Suarez), Lucia (Macarena Garcia), Sofia (Amaia Salamanca) and Claudia (Belén Cuesta) are brought together by the death of their mother, Carmen (Marisa Paredes). At the funeral, the sisters, who are all very different and whose lives have all taken very different paths, sees many male friends of their mother that they do not recognise.

   Alejandro (Maxi Iglesias), a family friend and ex of Sara. Their father, Pedro (Juan Diego) is suffering from dementia, punctured by moments of clarity. One of those moments come at the graveside when Ines (Rossy de Palma) turns up beside him. He begins to shout at her telling her she should not be there. Ines leaves. At the post-funeral gathering, Pedro rages again, seeing the many male admirers of his former wife in the house. 

     The sisters go to see the solicitor, for the reading of the will. Half of the estate is left for Pedro, so as to look after his failing health. The rest goes to the sisters on one condition. The solicitor plays them a video recorded by Carmen before her death. She confesses to them that Pedro is not their father and that in order to inherit they must find out who their fathers or father is. 

    Carmen, it turns out, was a sexually liberal woman who had many lovers any of which could be their father. Unfortunately, the man they consider their father, Pedro, could not be any of their father’s, as he is sterile. As finding their father is a condition of receiving the inheritance, the sisters are forced to follow their departed mother’s instructions. 

     This is the story and premise of the frankly disappointing and lacklustre Despite Everything or A Pesar De Todo, to give it its Spanish title. I could almost see the knowing grins on the writers’ faces when they came up with this ‘amusing’ premise. Written by Eugene B Rhee, Helena Rhee, Gabriela Tagliavini and Eric Charles Wilkinson, it is hard to believe that four people could all aim for and be obviously influenced by works of Pedro Almodóvar and miss by such a wide margin.

    At only seventy-eight minutes long, the film is far too short for the subject matter and stories it tries to tell. There is a lost love story between Bianca Suarez’s Sara and Maxi Iglesias’ Alejandro that is poorly served because of the restricted runtime and there being only three scenes between the characters, and that is squeezed in with the rest of the ‘find your dads’ storyline. 

   Belén Cuesta’s Claudia is living a lie, her marriage in crisis, but that story goes nowhere. Amaia Salamanca’s Sofia is a lesbian with commitment issues, a trope that is becoming the laziest in film and television and Macarena Garcia’s Lucia is the young lost one, feeling like an outsider. Though the only reason we know this is because she tells us. 

   The comedy, which should come from discovering who their possible fathers’ are, is poor. Pablo (Carlos Bardem), is a possibility. He is an artist and free spirit. As he slept with their mother over the period of all of their births, he could be the father of any of them.

He refuses to give them a possible DNA sample as he does not believe in science. Bardem’s performance is probably the most amusing thing in the film and it is only that, amusing, not laugh-out-loud funny. 

    The sisters argue for maybe two minutes of screen time, at various times, and Claudia tells them all about themselves in the ‘breakthrough’ moment in a car journey, but you just do not care that much. They get high on weed as they go to see another possible father option, Padre Diaz (Emilio Gutiérrez Caba) and giggle like schoolgirls on meeting the blind priest. Hilarious. 

    A Pesar De Todo is beautifully shot and ably directed by Gabriela Tagliavini and the music that accompanies some scenes is quite enjoyable, creating a light vibe that the writing cannot, sadly, match. The acting is good from all of the cast, especially given the limited scope in which they had to work. 

    In the hands of Almodóvar, this would possibly have been an amusing film, with more emotional depth and definitely a longer runtime. A Pesar De Todo is a good idea very poorly executed. For whatever reason, the film is underwritten, short and seemingly hurried. With the cast and technical talent that is obviously on display, that is a real shame. There was the promise of a really good film in A Pesar De Todo, unfortunately, it does not deliver.   


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