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“People like simple things,” the creative director hero of Sorry If I Call You Love tells his new girlfriend, and on the evidence of the success of the novels of Italian Federico Moccia and their film spinoffs, this time courtesy of Joaquin Llamas, he’s right. This is the third of Moccia’s novels to be adapted for the Spanish-speaking market, though really they’re Spanish versions of film adaptations — the Italian version, directed by Moccia himself, dates back to 2008.
A simple and entirely nonsubversive tale of the forbidden love between a young woman and an older man, Sorry has a script, roles and story that could have basically been written, and were indeed regularly written, at any time during the twentieth century. But the packaging — primarily the visuals and the music — could not, and it’s the slick packaging, as it is with other Moccia adaptations, that is the most important thing. Nobody, not even the teens it’s aimed at, will believe it for a moment. But they don’t care because it’s all dressed up so nicely. And if nothing else, the film does give youngsters a lot to gossip and giggle about.
A vacuous, fruity voiceover from Ramon Langa (“in love, two and two does not always equal four”) opens things, before thankfully fading away for most of the remainder. Thirty-seven-year-old Alex (gorgeous Italian Daniele Liotti, apparently the only actor here with less than perfect teeth) is a creative director in an ad agency who’s depressed following his split from girlfriend Elena (Irene Montala); there’s bad news at work too, as his ideas for a Japanese perfume campaign are not as sharp as those of his younger colleague and rival, Marcelo (Jan Cornet).
Out driving his Porsche, Alex knocks 17-year-old high school student Niki (Paloma Bloyd) off her scooter. Instead of being killed, Niki falls in love. He’s just about young enough, and she’s just about old enough: They exchange glances, and without any further ado, she goes in romantic pursuit of the Older Man. As his healing process gets underway, and despite a fleeting visual gag about oral sex, Liotti and the script do well to ensure that there’s no suggestion that this isn’t all about true love, and nothing darker.
“Will you give me a kiss?” Niki asks Alex, and shocked, he refuses. But the onscreen chemistry between them is good, and Bloyd is wonderfully light, vibrant and energetic, so that when they do end up sleeping together, it feels just fine. But can it all last after Elena returns, seeking forgiveness from Alex?
At every suggestion that anything really troubling might be about to happen, the script quickly spins it into comedy. For example, Alex’s lecherous buddy Pedro (Pablo Chiapella) is married with kids whilst trying to score with Niki’s teenage friends — that’s hilarious. Anything approaching real emotion is likewise carefully sidestepped. How does Niki’s characterless father, Roberto (Jaime Pujol), feel about Alex? Let’s not go there. “Our relationship is a fantasy,” Alex dolefully tells Niki. Well, of course it is, Alex. That’s the whole point!
Niki teaches Alex how to be young again, and its here where the film’s appeal lies — in the ancient fantasy that the love of an apparently empowered (but actually enslaved) young woman can redeem a good-looking, troubled Euro-Clooney, saving his career, mending his broken heart and teaching him to know himself. If it means that Niki might fail her university entrance exams, then so be it. And then there’s the sumptuous packaging: It’s all set in a luxurious, upper middle-class Spain, mostly well-shot by David Omedes in spacious apartments with huge views, or under rain. They also go to Paris.
Whether it’s playing into Niki’s Oedipal fantasies or Alex’s middle-aged fear of his declining powers, at the level of its ideas, the film is not actually innocent at all, and is carefully calculated to appeal to both teenage girls and their young, middle-aged parents (though neither girls nor parents are likely to want to see it together).
Every time that anyone boards a vehicle, music starts to play: Ed Sheeran‘s “T his,” telling us that “this is the start of something new”; Eliza Doolittle; and plaintive Spanish ballads: Arnau Bataller‘s hammy score can’t compete with this terrific soundtrack.
At the end of the film, Alex takes a photo of the sleeping Niki, which then becomes the image to be used in his perfume campaign. True love has been magically transformed into advertising, and vice versa. So that despite the deja vu feel of practically everything else about Sorry If I Call You Love, it does after all have at least one idea that’s solidly contemporary.
Production company: Telecinco Cinema
Cast: Daniele Liotti, Paloma Bloyd, Jan Cornet, Cristina Brondo, Andrea Duro, Pablo Chiapella, Irene Montala
Director: Joaquin Llamas
Screenwriter(s): Fran Araujo, Manuel Burque
Producer: Albert Espel
Director of photography: David Omedes
Production designer: Josep Rosell
Costume designer: Rocio Pastor
Editor: Oriol Carbonell
Composer: Arnau Bataller
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