Saw two films recently that have very similar themes that come from different countries and I thought, relationship themes are all really universal.
From Spain comes ‘Al Oleo.’ Directed by Pablo Lavado, is a story of a young woman, Maria (Sarah Benavente) who comes home to her family estate and finds that things have not changed since she left it, and makes herself the conduit for things to change for her father and brother. This is one of those movies wherein you just feel like you are observing. There are different family dynamics in these relationships and you see the societal boundaries that prevent the characters from expressing themselves. This was billed as somewhat of a gay film, but that part is subtle – it brews but never comes to a complete boil. It’s there, though – her brother is in love with a straight guy whose wife is having a baby – and I like the fact that it gives a glimpse of how Spanish culture looks at homosexuality, that seemingly sex between two men can be casual and laissez faire. The film all in all is a little slight, but depth can be mined.
There is a lot more complexity in ‘Athlete:Ore ga kari ni obereta hibi,’ which comes from Japan. Directed by Oe Takamasa, it is a story of a man (Joe Nakamura) who is a frustrated swimmer. After his wife leaves him for another man, he wanders into the Tokyo gay district and meets Yutaka (Yohdi Kondo) and falls in love with him, which startles even him. But Yutaka has bigger dreams, like going to animation school in France. I liked this film a lot, and appreciated the tender touch it gave to the story. I felt that two characters fell in love with each other, and Nakamura gives a raw performance. I found it curious that Yutaka looked Korean, perhaps because now all over Asia, the ‘Korean look’ is the new standard of beauty. This film is a lot more meaty than the previous one, and perhaps that’s why I preferred it more.
All in all, I found both films interesting, more for the cultural differences and similarities that are shown.