La Gran Familia Española (Family United) tries really hard to please everyone. With its pastel and gold palette, handsome cast in suspenders and Converse, a painful wedding entrance music montage to the sound of Calvin Harris’ Feel So Close and, of course, the backdrop of the almighty Spanish national team beating Holland at the South Africa 2010 World Cup Final, the film is really desperate to have in its poster one of those laurel encircled quotes saying something like “…feel-good movie of the year!”.
Dad’s (Héctor Colomé) favourite film was the Hollywood musical “Seven Brothers For Seven Sisters”. Just like in that film he wanted to have seven sons with biblical names. He only managed to have five, though, before Mom broke his heart and split. They are Adán, Benjamín, Caleb, Daniel and Efraín.
The youngest one Efraín (Patrick Criado) is getting married with his pregnant childhood sweetheart Carla (Arantxa Martí) on the day of the World Cup Final. The whole family gets together at the family farm for the wedding. Adán (Antonio De La Torre) is depressed and needs money to get his life back together. Benjamín (Roberto Álamo) is a mentally challenged man child, but don’t worry, it’s the Hollywood type of mentally challenged man child. You know he’s gonna drop some precious nuggets of wisdom at key moments of the film. Daniel (Miquel Fernández) is going out with Cris (an excellent Verónica Echegui), who used to be with the brooding and super cool Caleb (Quim Gutiérrez). Now that Caleb is back (with a broken heart and a family secret), from two years of being a sexy doctor in Kenya, Daniel’s self-esteem goes way down and his self-pity way up.
At the start of the wedding, Dad suffers from heart problems and the celebrations are put on pause while he fights for his life. The guests (and the rest of the country) watch the game and the five brothers are left to deal with their issues.
Heart to heart conversations, weepy monologues, and hilarious hijinks ensue. It’s all very familiar; a lost ring, the waiter gets drunk, an oversexual cousin, love triangles. The groom falls in the pool. Everything is perfectly timed to climax at just about the same time as Iniesta scores the victory goal for Spain. ESPAÑA! ESPAÑA! ESPAÑA! Then there’s Spanish flags everywhere, weepy revelations, lots of hugging and learning, and one fantastic scene of two parallel family meetings that is an absolute editing masterclass.
Indeed, on a technical level, La Gran Familia Española is flawlessly executed. It’s structure is tight, the tone changes are very well handled and the pacing never slows down. The cast are top notch as well, with a special mention again to Victoria Echegui for a very human and layered performance, and to Quim Gutiérrez (who will be interviewed by us) for somehow managing to make Caleb into more than just a brooding hunk. It has all the ingredients of successful recipe, but it’s too bad writer/director Daniel Sánchez Arévalo added way too much sugar and not enough spice.
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La Gran Familia Española was screened as part of the program of the London Spanish Film Festival last Saturday 27th September.