The Best of Me



Locarno International Film Festival

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- Barcelona director Roser Aguilar has taken a familiar yarn of young lives being interrupted by serious illness and spun it into something satisfyingly tart and unsentimental in "The Best of Me" (Lo mejor de mi). Screened in competition here, the film has bright commercial prospects, while the director's smart venture into well-worn territory and an outstanding lead performance by Marian Alvares will assure continued festival attention.

Alvares plays Raquel, a young radio newsreader who is crazy about Tomas (Juan Sanz), a handsome athlete who appears somewhat less committed. She works at night and he jumps hurdles during the day, but they appear happy. He caves when Raquel finds them an apartment with a rooftop view of the city.

Everything changes when Tomas collapses on the track and is diagnosed with liver failure. As he deteriorates, the options are to wait for an organ donor to die or for some extraordinarily generous person to volunteer half a living one.

The cliches that could develop from this scenario are many, but the sensible script by Aguilar and Oriol Capel skirts them cleverly. Raquel has a perfectly suitable liver, and they have every reason to expect healthy lives afterward, but there are huge risks in the operation.

Tomas' diabetic father Eduardo (Lluis Homar), Raquel's pregnant friend Silvia (Marieta Orozco) and her radio colleague David (Pablo Derqui) are supportive, and Raquel and Tomas are in good hands with Dr. Ferrer (Alberto Jiminez).

The cracks, when they show, begin with a casual remark by a strict nurse named Carmen (Carmen Machi), who observes that Tomas doesn't deserve Raquel. It sends a shiver of guilt through the young man as he contemplates his love affair with another woman, Claudia (Nausica Bonnin).

The well-staged scenes and lovely cityscape are well captured by cinematographer Isaac Vila, and editor Bernat Vilaplana helps the director achieve a pleasing pace. The entire cast does well, especially Homar as the helpless and grateful father.

But it's Alvares who makes the picture by showing that beneath her beautiful features there is a serious brain at work despite her apparently guileless nature. Aguilar and Capel provide her good material to work with, and the strength of Alvares's performance adds depth to the picture's wise and melancholy conclusion.

Escandalo Films
Director: Roser Aguilar
Screenwriters: Roser Aguilar, Oriol Capel
Executive producers: Aintza Serra, Sergi Casamitjana
Director of photography: Isaac Vila
Production designer: Leo Casamitjana
Music: Jens Neumaier
Costume designers: Nuria Cardoner, Silvia Iglesias
Editor: Bernat Vilaplana
Raquel: Marian Alvarez
Tomas: Juan Sanz
Eduardo: Lluis Homar
Dr. Ferrer: Alberto Jiminez
Silvia: Marieta Orozco
Carmen: Carmen Machi
David: Pablo Derqui
Pilar: Maife Gil
Ignacio: Pep Cortes
Alberto: Enric Ases
Claudia: Nausica Bonnin
Alex: Jordi Cadellans
Ivan: Ricard Sales
Running time -- 85 minutes
No MPAA rating