A Remarkable Tale – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: In the remote Spanish village of Upper Fuertejuela, four black dancers find themselves caught up in the politics of an ageing town trying to avoid annexation. They are taken in by one of the villagers who has designs on becoming the new mayor by opposing the current mayor, her ex-husband.

Is it any good?: A film that seems slightly out of its time, having been made in 2019, A Remarkable Tale is a Spanish race farce almost in the style of the old British Carry On films. Utilising many of the stereotypical tropes, fish-out-of-water moments, as well as some mildly racist scenes. Looking past the casual racism, A Remarkable Tale is an amusing comedy farce.

Spoiler territory: in the old Spanish village of Fuertajuela, most of the houses are for sale with the population mostly of old aged residents and dwindling, the residents try to get people to come to their town, with local Teresa (Carmen Michi), driving around the town trying to promote the village’s egg tart, open village day.

No one is interested in visiting Upper Fuertajuela and Teresa returns to tell the residents. Out in the woods, four black people, three men and a woman are trekking across the snow, inappropriately dressed in traditional African tribal gear.

Back in the village, the residents are grumbling about Teresa’s husband, Alvaro (Santi Ugaide), who is also the town’s mayor, not attending. She points out that he is her ex-husband and he is in Lower Fuertajuela, the larger, more major town, on business. The villagers are momentarily excited as they hear a car approaching, thinking someone has come to visit the town.

It turns out to be the mayor of Lower Fuertajuela, Vicente Campello (Paco Tous). He comes to asks the villagers to vote in the upcoming election, as their town does not seem to have a mayor and annexation is inevitable. Teresa says that perhaps she will become the towns next mayor. Campello laughs, with even most of the village sniggering at the thought.

As he goes to leave the villagers, he tells them that there are four blacks on the run and that they need to be careful. The villagers are worried and scatter to their homes for sanctuary, leaving Teresa and her son, Carlos (Miquel Cañaveras) and Jaime (Pepón Nieto), to clear up. The three head home but Teresa tells Jaime to stop outside one house. She blares the van’s horn and wakes up Guiri (Jon Kortajarena). She wants to know why he did not attend the open day. He tells her he does not care about the open day. Juanito decides to hang out with him when Teresa and Jaime leave.

The four black dancers come to a warehouse and want to hide and get some food. They hear a van and hide. Teresa and Jaime arrive to return the stuff from the village open day. As they are getting out of the van one of the dancers knocks over some logs. Teresa goes to check and sees them hiding. She runs into the warehouse. Her and Jaime watch them from the window, unsure what to do.

Teresa, seeing that they are cold, decides to help them. They go out and beckon to them. The four reluctantly get into the van. They take the four home with them. At the house they give them clothing and speak about what to do with them, believing that they do not understand them.

Latisha (Montse Pla) steps forward and pronounces that she can understand them and the only reason they did not speak was that they were scared. One of her party, Azquil (Malcolm T. Sitte), also understands them. The other two, Calulu (Jimmy Castro) and Shukra (Ricardo Nkosi), are not as fluent in Spanish. Calulu tells them that the four are dancers.

The police knock on the door. They are looking for the dancers. Teresa tells them she has not seen them. Bad weather causes many of the villagers to start losing television and telephone signals. Jaime is worried about their situation and vocalises this to Teresa, mentioning that Paco (Txema Blasco), has a shotgun to hunt black people. The four dancers are, understandably, nervous.

Carlos, brought back by Guiri, returns home. The two stand stunned by the sight of the four black dancers. Guiri voices his unease at Teresa harbouring four fugitives. Teresa accuses him of being racist. As they argue, there is a knock at the door. It is Encarnita (Kiti Manver), Jaime’s mother. She sees the dancers and wonders why they are there. Teresa tells her that they came from a worse place than the village.

Marga, whose opinion of the village is very low, cannot believe that. Teresa, with the dancers in the village, has an idea to help save the village. It involves the dancers helping to repopulate the village. She asks the dancers if they want to help. They are conflicted.

Teresa decides they need to split up as she cannot accommodate them all in her house. Calulu and Shakra go with Encarnita, Latisha goes with Guiri and Azquil stays with Teresa. The dancers settle in at the various homes. The next day there is a town meeting and Teresa plan to introduce the towns latest additions to everybody.

Teresa sees Alvaro outside the meeting hall. She goes to talk to him. Even though he is still the town’s mayor, Alvaro tells her he is too busy to attend the meeting and drives off. In the meeting, Manolita (Enriqueta Carballeira) tells the gathering that the town needs to have at least eighteen people so as not to be annexed. She also tells them that they have one less resident than the sixteen they thought they had because her husband had died three days before and she had not wanted the town to find out.

The villagers start to panic. There is no way they can avoid annexation now. Teresa tells them she has a plan that will save their village. She introduces two of the dancers; Azquil and Latisha. The villagers eye them warily. Paco picks up his shotgun. Marga (Mariana Cordera) is especially vocal in her distrust of the new residents. Her and Latisha clash, Latisha unable to hold her tongue as Marga hurls insults.

The argument is interrupted by Guiri coming in and telling them that Shukra has stolen the van. Paco stops the van by letting off a shot. As Shukra, Carlos and Calulu emerge from the van, Encarnita pops up and tells them that she wanted to go to the town to find some excitement.

After Jaime is forcefully persuaded not to call the police – Guiri breaks his phone – Teresa has another plan to gain the town’s independence. She plans to have a fiesta where Campello can see that the town is thriving. Guiri and Latisha continue their awkward, attracted-to-one-another relationship. Elsewhere, Jaime is trying to sell custard tarts to Calulu. He does not like them.

Teresa gets Shukra a job at the only cafe in the village. She then takes Azquil and Latisha to collect eggs around the village to make tarts for the fiesta. Azquil charms the still abrasive Marga as they go looking for eggs. Shukra’s job is not going very well and Teresa has to take Azquil to go and calm the situation. She leaves Latisha and Guiri to bring back the eggs. They kiss.

Azquil tells Teresa he has a wife and four children. They get to the cafe and calm the situation. Campello turns up at the village and sees the dancers. He says he is going to report them. Latisha says she recognises him from the club they used to dance in. Teresa tells him that he has been seen in the club. Campello, with his political aspirations, decides not to report them. Before he leaves he tells Teresa that Alvaro is running for deputy mayor with him. Teresa did not know.

The next day, at Teresa’s insistence, everybody turns up at the village hall to practice the barn dance. They demonstrate the dance to the very underwhelmed dancers. The dancers join in and practice the monotonous routine. Shukra sees that Guiri and Latisha are getting close and explodes in rage. He decides to leave. Latisha tells she will stay with him if he stays.

Calulu, who was going with Shukra, asks Jaime if he should stay. Jaime is not ready to embrace his homosexuality so Calulu leaves. It is the day of the fiesta. Campello comes with his wife and people from Lower Fuertajuela. At the fiesta, the dancers, less Calulu, serve the egg tarts. They then put on their show. The old dance causes much mirth amongst those from Lower town. The dancers, Calulu having returned, take over the show. Latisha points an accusatory finger at Campello.

Insulted, Campello tells Teresa he is going to call the police. Jaime tells him that Teresa has applied for citizenship for all of them. Teresa admits that she had forgotten. The police come to take them away. As the police are taking them away, followed by the entire village, Encarnita stops them and says she is getting married to Shukra. Teresa says she is marrying Azquil. Latisha asks if Guiri wants to marry her and he agrees. Jaime takes Calulu, finally embracing his sexuality.

They all get married. The end.

A Remarkable Tale or Lo Nunca Visto – original Spanish title – is an amusing if mildly racist film. Rely on the type of humour not seen on English shores since the days of Rising Damp and Jim Davidson, A Remarkable Tale, as I mentioned earlier, is really a film made in the wrong decade.

With the world being a much smaller and almost too sensitive place for this type of film, it is hard to know who this film was aimed at. Though the film is played for laughs and is, admittedly, amusing due to great performances from the cast, the portrayal of both the black people and the narrow-minded villagers is a little disconcerting.

Carmen Michi, a veteran of comedy films, is as good as one would expect and helps to make the film a little more palatable. She is ably assisted by Montse Pla and Kiti Mánver, the three forming the heart of the film.

Written and directed by Marina Seresesky, the film is competently lensed and directed and, aside from the ill-advised subject matter, a well-written comedy. A Remarkable Tale will probably offend more people than it amuses for many of the reasons I laid out above but if you watch it without any thought for its racial missteps, it is ninety-three minutes of amusing farce.

Grandma’s Wedding – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: When the grandmother of a large family tells her family that she is getting married to the gardener, they support her decision despite some reservations and various internal familial squabbles. A year later, the grandmother’s family is preparing to meet her fiancé’s family.

When the grandmother’s well-to-do, city-dwelling family meet the gardener’s more urban, rural family as well as the culture clash, the gardener’s mother is not amused to see her son marrying a much older woman.

Is it any good?: truthfully, it is not the best film. That being said, I did enjoy it and it is very much in the style of many Spanish/Latin American comedies. It is amusing without being laugh out loud and the story is transparent to the point of not really being there.

At ninety-seven minutes long it will not take up too much of your time and is worth a look if you like a light comedy.

Spoiler territory: well-to-do matriarch, Abuela (Susana Alexander) gathers her family, her son, Francisco (José Carlos Rodriguez) and his wife, Natalia (Martha Claudia Moreno) and their young baby. Warring brothers, angry Daniel (Luis Arrieta) and his more reticent brother, Sebastián (Luis Ernesto Franco). Pregnant sister, Diana (Tiaré Scande) and her husband, Gerardo (Rodrigo Murray) and younger sister Ana (Marimar Vega) with her partner, Juan Pablo (Antonio Gaona).

She says she has an announcement. She is getting married. To Julio (Dino Garcia), the gardener. The family, though displaying some shock and obvious reservations, support her. A year later, the families prepare to meet for the first time before the wedding.

Julio warns Abuela that his mother, Aurora (Macaria) can be challenging. Aurora, a religious woman, gives thanks in a church that her eldest son has finally decided to settle down and marry. She is a little disappointed that he could not find a local girl but is reassured, by her son, that his future wife is a good woman.

Abuela is having another family meeting. Daniel is threatening not to attending the wedding if his brother is going. He is angry that his brother got together with his former girlfriend, Andrea (Paola Nuñez). An emotional Diana says she will not attend either if anyone is not going. Abuela takes charge and quells all arguments. She wants everyone to come together to impress Julio’s family.

Later, Ana is with her Juan Pablo and discovers an engagement ring. She confronts him with it. Juan Pablo, caught by surprise, tells he wanted to plan his proposal but, as she has discovered the ring, he decides to propose on the spot. Ana runs from the house leaving Juan Pablo confused.

Andrea is arguing with Sebastián. She wants him to tell the family that she is pregnant and plan to marry. Sebastián is reluctant and says that he does not want to ruin Abuela’s wedding. Andrea refuses to go to the wedding.

Ana meets up with the rest of the family to go to the weekend home where they are to meet Julio’s family. She tells them that Juan Pablo is sick and won’t be attending. At the weekend house, the perennially angry Daniel arrives. The first person he meets is Sebastián. He gives him short shrift.

Francisco arrives shortly afterwards. He is obsessed with bringing up his younger baby differently from the rest of his older siblings, wanting to feed him only organic food and limit his exposure to what he considers bad influences. Julio’s family arrive.

Along with his mother, Aurora, are her daughters, Julieta (Renata Notni) and Julia (Marianna Torres), plus a family friend, Rafael (Armando Hernández). Julio comes out to greet his family and is followed by Diana and Gerardo. Seeing the pregnant Diana, Aurora mistakenly believes her son is getting married to Diana. Gerardo explains that Diana is his wife and the child is his.

Abuela comes out afterwards. A visibly shocked Aurora sees how old she is. Abuela calls for a toast to the families. Aurora frowns on the drinking of alcohol so early in the day. Abuela quickly does an about-turn, saying her family rarely drink. She invites Julio’s family to come and see the house and grounds.

Julia, who has gone for a wander around the house on her own, notices a book written by Sebastián. Ana sees her with the book and tells her it is terrible and she should not read it. In private, both families have reservations about the union. Aurora’s clan think she is too old and the family to grand and Abuela family are convinced he is marrying her for her money.

With very little in common, the families find it very hard to bond. Gerardo suggests they get into small groups and try to bond that way. It works moderately, though Daniel and the headstrong Julia clash over ideals. Sebastián tries to reconnect with Daniel but he will not tell him why Andrea is not there.

Sebastián and Rafael share a room as Andrea is not in attendance. Julia reads Sebastián’s book. Abuela orders food from a local Mexican restaurant and pretends it is home-cooked. At the dinner, Aurora tells Abuela that it is a family tradition to ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. Abuela tells her that they planned to do that the next day. Juan Pablo turns up. Julieta recognises him from his music videos and is excited which irks Ana.

Sebastián tells Ana that Andrea is pregnant and they plan to marry. The next morning, Ana goes to see Juan Pablo. Her meeting is interrupted by an excitable Julieta who wants Juan Pablo to look at her songs. Julia asks Daniel about the book and whether its contents are true. He tells her that it is not all true but most of it is.

Aurora gives Abuela her mother’s wedding dress. Abuela graciously accepts even though it was obviously given to her as an insult. Daniel mistakenly thinks Sebastián and Andrea have broken up which is why she is not at the house. Juan Pablo and Julieta sing a song for the gathered families which incenses Ana. She threatens Julieta.

Julia tells her family about the contents of the book and how it lays bare the family’s real character. Aurora challenges Abuela to cook a meal for everybody whilst they watch on. Abuela, unable to cook, comes clean and admits that the weekend has been a facade. Aurora and the family leave. Daniel blames Sebastián for writing the book even though it was he who confirmed its veracity.

Rafael and Julieta convince the family to return for the wedding. Ana contacts Andrea to asks about love. Rafael and Sebastián get drunk and Rafael confesses his love for Julia. Elsewhere, Julia and Daniel bond over their love of football and end up sleeping together.

The wedding day and Rafael decides to proclaim his love to Julia. Ana apologises to Julieta and Julieta tells her that Juan Pablo really does love her. The ceremony begins. Rafael finds Daniel with Julia and goes berserk. He runs after him with a gun. They interrupt the ceremony and Rafael accidentally shoot Sebastián in the bottom. In the hospital, Sebastián tells Daniel that he and Andrea are having a child and getting married.

Abuela and Julio get married. At the after-party, Ana proposes to Juan Pablo and he accepts. Andrea turns up at the party having been called by Daniel. Aurora and Abuela make peace with one another. The end.

As I said at the beginning, Grandma’s Wedding or – La Boda de la Abuela the original Mexican title – is not a great film and quite predictable if you watch this type of film even though I found it enjoyable. It is a comedy by numbers for the most part and the actors on show are mostly just having fun.

The script by Adriana Pelusi is amusing enough and has an easy enough to follow story but there is nothing especially clever or fresh in its approach. The direction by Javier Colinas is brisk enough and keeps the story moving along nicely.

The editing, by Max Blasquez, Joaquim Marti and Colinas, is worth a mention as they employ lovely screen wipe flourishes that really work with the story and proceedings. The music also is quite pleasant, adding to the atmosphere of the film.

The acting is good from all on show with the whole cast just staying the right side of farce. All the characters are clearly defined and separate, even those who have smaller roles. Grandma’s Wedding is a pleasant enough and not a bad way to waste a couple of hours.