It’s unclear if any other country than the UK has national treasures, but if Spain does, you can bet your bottom Euro that Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are most definitely at the top of that list.
This Spanish power couple however, took the national treasure thing to a whole new level when they got hitched in 2010. Since then, they’ve had two children together, and although there doesn’t yet appear to be a term for when national treasures collide to produce offspring, it’s bound to sound a bit phlegmy when translated into Spanish.
This latest outing for the pair, puts the amount of films they’ve now appeared in together into double digits, which is pretty remarkable, as they still appear to be talking to one another.
This tenth professional collaboration sees them team up with Oscar-winning, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who picked up his gold statuette for Best Foreign Film for 2011’s A Separation.
Weddings are often good excuses for bringing family together, and for Laura (Cruz) she’s definitely chalked up some Air Miles. She now lives in Buenos Aires, but has flown home, to a small village outside of Madrid, with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding.
It is of course a joyous occasion, as the whole village joins in with the party atmosphere. Also attending is old friend/flame Paco (Bardem), who back in the day, bought land from her family to help them out.
But the atmosphere changes dramatically when Laura goes to check on her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) in bed, only to find that she’s not there.
Her immediate reaction is to panic, as any parent would, but her fears are confirmed when she receives a text to say that her daughter has been kidnapped for a ransom.
As the family comes to terms with the recent events, the past is raked up causing further ripples of discontent and mistrust throughout the family and close community.
The advantage of being a couple in real life of course, means that you already have a shorthand of sorts, with your co-star. So it’s no surprise to learn that this film is at its best when Bardem and Cruz share the screen.
Where it finds itself uncoupling creatively is in the script. At the centre of the film should be the disappearance of a young woman. But as the film drags on, this central storyline drifts into the distance, and is almost forgotten about as the general bickering of the community takes over.
Soon Farhadi’s film becomes something less appealing, concentrating on the notion of whose land is it anyway, and whether or not someone paid a fair amount for it in the first place. Meanwhile, a young woman’s life appears to be less and less significant as the film goes on.
At the same time, the director introduces a storyline that audiences could have guessed at before the open titles even have time to finish, as it can be seen far further than a mile off.
It’s difficult to see how this project would have appealed to its leading stars, besides the obvious of sharing just the one trailer, as the pair are impaired by a weak script that does neither one of them any favours.
Yes it’s a given that everybody knows how extremely talented Cruz and Bardem are, but it would be helpful if they reminded audiences once in a while with appearances in films worthy of their considerable talent, together or not.