The Mosquito Net -- Film Review



KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- The title of Barcelona-born filmmaker Agusti Vila's "The Mosquito Net" refers to a story created by one of the characters about a girl scared to death because she's afraid of stepping on ants when she walks and won't use netting when she sleeps.

It's one neurosis among many that afflict everyone in the film as writer-director Vila spins a yarn of obsession and indulgence that could be a comedy were it not so very, very dry and the events so close to tragedy.

Sometimes abrupt in its storytelling and withdrawn in the information it provides about characters, the film remains intriguing, and the questions it raises stick in the mind. It should engage audiences with a taste for complex urban quandaries presented with Spanish flair.

A dysfunctional family is at the center of things with Alicia (Emma Suarez), writer and illustrator of weird tales, who indulges her teenage son Lluis (Marcos Franz) in his passion for bringing home stray dogs and cats.

The opening scene is very funny as Alicia and husband Miguel (Eduard Fernandez) come home to find yet another pup has been added to the menagerie, much to Miguel's annoyance.

Fighting over animals, however, is only one part of the couple's growing dissatisfaction with their marriage. Her increased distraction over getting her next project published and his growing insistence on tidiness in the home have led them to separate bedrooms. Things come to a head when their son brings home a wounded pigeon and Miguel smacks one of the dogs on the snout when it goes to sniff the bird.

They separate and each embarks on an affair, Miguel with their beautiful young immigrant maid Ana (Martina Garcia), to whom he already has begun to make fetishistic overtures, and she drunkenly with one of her son's school friends (Alex Batllori).

Meanwhile, Alicia's single-mother sister Raquel (Anna Ycobalzeta) is having a meltdown and has begun abusing her young daughter, and Miguel's aging parents (Geraldine Chaplin and Fermi Reixach) are dealing with her Alzheimer's disease and his suicidal tendencies.

The talented ensemble cast plays it straight, but it's tempting to laugh at the behavior because much of it is absurd. The thread of lousy parenting and child abuse is so strong, though, that laughter sticks in the throat. It would be good to think that's exactly what Vila intended.

Venue: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Official Competition)
Cast: Emma Suarez, Eduard Fernandez, Geraldine Chaplin, Marcos Franz, Alex Batllori
Production: Eddie Saeta SA
Director-screenwriter: Agusti Vila
Producer: Luis Minarro
Director of photography: Neus Olle
Production designer: Leo Casamitjana
Music: Alfons Conde
Editor: Marti Roca
Sales: Eddie Saeta SA
No rating, 95 minutes