A GUN IN EACH HAND. Starring Eduard Ferdandez, Javier Camara, Leonardo Sbarglia, Luis Tosar, Eduardo Noriega, Ricardo Darin, Clara Segura, and Candela Pena. Directed by Cesc Gay. Rated M (Sexual references and coarse language). 95 min.
This subtitled Spanish film has nothing to do with guns. It is essentially a series of short pieces with story lines that interact, and the film involves characters that all have relationship-conflicts. It is a talking movie and focuses almost exclusively on adult relationships. The title refers to having “a go each way” in romantic relationships, and explores wounded male egos and mid-life crises for males in particular. The film is a witty collection of comical vignettes starring well-known Spanish actors.
The film is constructed around personal encounters in Barcelona and puts a heavy dramatic emphasis on masculinity. Male friends, acquaintances, ex-spouses, and past and present lovers meet and talk. There are eight men involved, and each of them has a reason to be unhappy with his life. What appears initially to be a collection of disparate episodes, however, turns out to be a combination of events that intertwine to expose wittily revealing insights into male-life crises.
Some of the male characters in the movie are severely unhappy, but most are regretful of what has happened (or is happening) to them in the romantic sphere of their life. Insecurities abound, and none of the main male characters is named in full in either the script of the movie, or its credits. Male conversations revolve widely, and intimately, around issues to do with divorce, adultery, seduction, sexual dysfunction, and therapy.
One character (Eduard Fernandez), who is out of work and living with his mother - after preferring his cat to his girlfriend - bumps into an old friend (Leonardo Sbarglia), who is depressed following a particularly bad therapy session and who is crying in an elevator. Another (Javier Camara), drops his son off to his ex-wife (Clara Segura), and fails in his attempts to win her back after two years of separation. Another (Luis Tosar) walks his dog and encounters a man sitting on a park bench (Ricardo Darin), who is staking out the house of his wife’s lover. In a building nearby, another man (Eduardo Noriega), who is married, tries to hit sexually on a colleague, Mamen (Candela Pena) at an office party, and his approach humiliates him both socially and personally.
Despite an element of contrivance, there is an amazing degree of authenticity to this movie as the men talk about themselves with complete candour, intimacy, and honesty. The dialogue is perceptive, and the anxieties that typically plague middle-aged males are put up to us for scrutiny. It would be easy for the characters to look stereotyped, but they are not, and none allows their emotions to run riot. Tense exchanges occur, but they are well-nuanced. The photography is framed stylishly, and the acting performances are uniformly excellent.
This is a gently scathing, bittersweet movie that feels entirely genuine. The performances are fresh and natural, and there are some startling interactions of some of the players with other males and their partners that are totally unexpected, especially the man on the park bench who accidentally learns the identity of his wife’s lover from the man who is passing by.
This is a clever and unusual movie that fosters sharp insights into the human condition. The women in this movie are not nearly as insecure as the men, and their confidence provides an interesting contrast to the anxieties that the men are experiencing.
Collectively, the movie’s episodes achieve an emotional force that addresses some of the complexities of whatever masculine identity might be. There is a thoughtful array of sex differences thrown in for good measure, as well as lessons to be learned about the games that both sexes play with each other.
The film concentrates a little too pointedly on men’s romantic problems, but it creatively offers us a highly absorbing, comically personal, and intimate look at male insecurity.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out July 4th 2013.