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Memories Of My Father

Director: Fernando Trueba

Stars: Javier Cámara, Nicolás Reyes Cano, Patricia Tamayo Juan Pablo Urrego

Spanish director Trueba’s adaptation of Héctor Abad Faciolince’s best-selling Columbian memoir boasts a very fine central performance from Cámara as the titular figure, but suffers from an overwrought nostalgic feel and an odd structure.

It begins in Turin in 1983, as Columbian student Hector (Urrego) receives a call from an old colleague of his father inviting him to return home to Medellin for a celebration of the old man’s life.

During the ceremony speakers pay tribute to Hector Snr (Cámara), and his dual careers, as a well-regarded compassionate doctor, and as a liberal university professor.

The visuals shift from crisp monochrome to a sun-dappled haze, as the narrative flashes back to the early 70s to depict Hector Jnr’s childhood in their comfortable middle class home. There Hector Snr and his wife Cecilia (Tamayo) try to raise their children, Hector Jnr (played in a younger incarnation by Cano), and their four daughters, in a secular liberal manner, despite the devoutly Catholic milieu.

The picture flashes forward again after Hector Jnr’s return, where his dad is running as a liberal candidate in the local elections, but in the agitated climate, is vilified by conservatives and radicals alike.

The political nuances of the time are side-lined in favour of a soft focus view of family life – in one sequence Hector Snr admonishes his son for not taking more of an interest in politics but the picture suffers from a similar problem. Occasionally it looks like the drama may shift to something knottier; the pressures of being the son of an accomplished well-regarded man, or that Hector’s Snr’s prioritising of politics over family may be because of personal trauma, but these threads remain frustratingly underexplored and fail to penetrate the sepia glow.

What the film does have is a winning performance from Almodóvar regular Cámara, his Hector in turns cheeky, charismatic and passionately humanitarian. Cano is equally impressive as the son, adoring of his father, but mildly resentful too. The female characters mainly flutter around decoratively, although Tamayo as the mother is at least afforded some poignant moments.

Memories of My Father is released 26th March 

David Willoughby

Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm 

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