Here's the Deal: Film Review

"Here's the Deal"
A clever combination of compassion, cutting edge, and instantly engaging characters make this solidly-crafted, heartfelt item the real Deal.

Alejandro Marzoa’s debut sees two struggling 40-something everymen stumbling across a twenty pound packet of cocaine and having to face the moral consequences.

An involving, minor key drama on the effects of the financial crisis on a couple of Spanish 40-somethings, the unexpectedly satisfying Here’s the Deal is packed with small, good things. A simply-told tale for our times, buoyed by a cast of well-played, credible characters and delivering a solid emotional punch, the film’s apparently easy-going nature conceals much edgy contemporary social comment. But that said, the carefully-judged script never forgets that it’s there to entertain. Pickups look likely from festivals able to see through the film’s lack of gloss to the qualities beneath.

Deal is set in Galicia in Northern Spain, and its cast list is a roster of Galician talent. Paco Tous plays the tubby, abject Suso, a newspaper vendor fallen on hard times who now depends on loans from his father-in-law (the recently deceased Xosé Manuel Olveira, 'Pico'), but who’s supported by his long-suffering spouse Carmen (Marisol Membrillo). Out fishing one evening along with his friend, widowed struggling real estate salesman Manuel (a boyishly lively  Miguel de Lira), the couple find a substantial stash of cocaine bobbing in the waves: Galicia is a key entry point into Europe for drugs.

PHOTOS: 26 of Summer's Most Anticipated Movies: 'Man of Steel,' 'Wolverine,' 'The Lone Ranger'

The film unpacks the consequences of their find and in doing so builds a thought-provoking fable that’s moral without being moralizing. Miguel believes that only a fool wouldn’t turn such a find to good account and informs cop Luis (Unax Ugalde), his daughter Julia’s (Manuela Velles) boyfriend – who, naturally enough for a cop in a Spanish film, is totally corrupt. But Suso, who has seen his son trying to score coke in a discotheque, is more conflicted about how to proceed. After Luis contacts bigwig drugs dealer Emilio (Antonio Duran, “Morris”) to figure out how to get rid of the haul, the strain starts to show not only on their friendship, but on Suso’s marriage and on Manuel’s mental health.

Dotted with moments of edgy humour – at one point our heroes believe that Emilio has been arrested, but he’s actually spending his drugs money with his family at EuroDisney - the script keeps a very careful eye on credibility. (Cynical viewers, though, may question the film’s uncharacteristically simplistic. somewhat rushed ending.) The most successful scenes achieve quiet intensity, as when Suso struggles to tell Carmen about their plans to sell the coke and so save the family: “You’re not like that”, she tells him, and he replies that that’s just the point.

The actors are fine taken separately, but it’s the relationship between the quiet, hesitant Suso and the outgoing Manuel, at times played as a comedy double act, that the real pleasures can be found: we care about them from the outset, and understand why others care about them. But the character of Luis, played monochromatically by a Unax Ugalde (seen most recently outside Spain in Dario Argento’s Dracula) is surplus to requirements and may have been squeezed in only to glamorize a film which is ultimately about a couple of middle-aged failures. Technically the film is efficient, but the score feels dated.

Venue: Cine Princesa, Madrid, June 20
Production companies: El Terrat, Vaca Films
Cast: Paco Tous, Miguel de Lira, Unax Ugalde, Manuela Velles, Marisol Membrillo, Manuel Lozano, Ricardo de Barreiros, Antono Duran, ‘Morris’, Axel Fernandez, Xose Manuel Olveira, ‘Pico’
Director: Alejandro Marzoa
Screenwriter: Miguel Angel Blanca, Marzoa
Producers: Emma Lustres, Jose Corbacho
Director of photography: Arnau Valls Colomer
Music: Sergio Moure de Oteyza.
Editor: Sofi Escude, David Gallart

No rating, 85 minutes