By Gianna Sarkis (Rochester, NY)
“La Reina de España,” The Queen of Spain, is a film set in Madrid, Spain after the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The comedy is the sequel to “La Niña de tus Ojos,” The Girl of your Dreams and was written and directed by Fernando Trueba.
Set 20 years after “La Niña de tus Ojos,” the story follows a film company and the recent return of their fugitive director and shining star actress. Macarena Granada, played by Penelope Cruz, returns to Estudio Madrid to star in an American film production about Queen Isabella of Spain. Estudio Madrid’s major director, Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines) was sent to a work camp during the civil war and escapes to return to the studio 20 years later upon Macarena’s arrival. Blas is discovered by the Spanish Private Police and sent back to a work camp where they plan to kill him and make it look like an accident. He becomes the focus of the story as Macarena and her team of actors, producers, and production team members try to kidnap Blas from the work camp and set him free in France.
Set in the time of dictatorial rule of Francisco Franco, the movie takes a serious turn when showing the work camps. Although a comedy, it portrays the work camps and injustices as truthfully as possible with poor living conditions and long work days. Trueba makes light of the camp’s horror when Macarena visits Blas at the camp pretending to be Blas’ daughter. The guards say “I know that face” to themselves and put the viewer on edge to see if she would get caught. Though she does not get caught, an old romance flares up between Blas and Macarena during a picnic when he begs her for one kiss. She declines and makes a joke. The audience is taken away from the camp setting imagining that these two are having lunch in a park.
As the film progresses, there is drama but also romance. Romance blossoms between Macarena and Leo, the stagehand, as well as Garry Jones (Cary Ewles), the American actor on set, and Julián Torralba (Jorge Sanz), the Spanish actor signed to the Estudio Madrid. The romance between Macarena and Leo in my opinion was unnecessary. The movie should have focused more on the studio team trying to free Blas. Too many intertwined subplots interfered with the main storyline.
The romance of Garry and Julián was also superfluous. This was not a romance but rather a forced relationship. Garry is an obvious gay character, and he continually forces himself on Julián. His flirting is obnoxious and the language barrier is a problem. Garry seems to not care that Julián has declined his advances and since Julián would like to become a big time American actor, he lets Garry get his way. I personally felt uncomfortable in these scenes because the story line of this showmance was uncalled for, and the way Garry pursued Julián did not seem realistic.
Although the overall direction of this film was good, it was not great. Nothing stood out from the camera angles or lighting. The script lacked a main storyline, and I personally would have left out the minor romances and Francisco Franco visiting the set. Franco’s visit was not only unnecessary, but a poor portrayal of the dictator. From the images I have seen, he is neither fat nor pale. It did not seem authentic to the person. Although a horrible dictator who harmed Spain, the actor, the makeup, and the costuming did not fit the character of Francisco Franco.