This is one of those quiet, beautiful movies that you wish for. This is not a big budget movie and I'm thankful for it. The director is someone to watch out for. While watching this movie, I was completely drawn in and could not wait to see how it unfolded. It will keep you guessing and I will admit that I did not see the ending coming. Don't let the fact that it stars unknown actors keep you from giving it a try. This is a beautiful, moving film about childhood innocence and growing up. I absolutely loved it and will recommend it to anyone who loves foreign films.
A beautiful and disturbing boy's point of view
Festival_man | 10/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A coming-of-age tale with more than a few twists, director Ivan Noel's debut makes superb use of its setting--the gorgeous rolling hills and verdant fields of Andalusia in southern Spain--to underscore young Pablo's (a note-perfect Gonzalo Sanchez Salas) discovery of secrets, both about himself as a growing lad haunted by his father's death, and about his family in general.
While his put-upon mom tries to make ends meet, Pablo--whose father died in an accident, the nature of which is only revealed gradually in flashbacks--roams the fecund countryside, frequently accompanied by his vastly more mature tomboy friend Julia (spark-plug Ana Tutor, in a star-making performance). Alone one day, he comes across a man, Paco, (Francisco Alfonsin) lounging beside his broken-down car. A conversation is started and then interrupted by the nosey local postman, who warns Pablo about strange men. The postman gone, the conversation resumes--and where it leads shakes Pablo and everyone around him to the core.
Director Noel shoots the gloriously sunlit countryside around the village of Jerez with the eye of a painter while showing his expertise at playing with audience expectations. It is this sure-handed way with what turns out to be a surprising narrative, the naturalism of the local townspeople in their first acting roles, and the almost dangerous sensuality of the cinematography, that marks In Your Absence as a very impressive first film.
THIS IS THE OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS, WHICH HAS NOT BEEN INCLUDED IN AMAZON'S LISTING:
13-year-old Pablo is a quiet, lonely boy with a troubled past. His only friend is Julia, a shameless 15-year-old girl who is more than willing to help Pablo with his transition from childhood to adolescence, and give him some advice on sex, love and life in general. On a quiet country road just outside of the village, Pablo meets Paco, an oddly calm, well dressed stranger whose car just broke down. Nevertheless, he seems more interested in the boy than fixing his problem. At first Pablo maintains a cautious distance from the stranger, vaguely heeding his fellow villagers' advice to keep his distance. However, the boy's subconscious quest to find understanding of his dark past and guilt makes him lose all of his protective layers. He sees a new friend in Paco; someone he can open up to and feel valued by almost like a replacement father. As Pablo's affection grows for the man, he is unknowingly and blindly being lead toward a tragedy that will scar him for life."
En tu ausencia - The most surprising movie of the year
Marmota | Canada | 03/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was a big surprise. I had seen the trailer and thought I knew what to expect, but was completely blown by the fantastic photography and by Gonzalo Sanchez Sala's performance. It is a history of a boy that needs to be loved, with ghosts hunting him from the past. Sexual awakening, fear and treason. The director is able to make the mundane scenes into delicate art, pay extra attention to the morning scene of the boy in bed. This is a must see, must have. It is a shame that it didn't make the big screens. Thank you Spain for allowing your movies to express this kind of art."
Coming of age film with a twist
Steven W. Shaw | Morrisville, PA United States | 03/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What starts out seemingly as an intergenerational love story between a shy, lonely 13 year old living with his mother in the Spanish countryside and an older man just passing through eventually becomes something else altogether. I compare this film favorably to Wild Tigers I Have Known, another coming of age story told in long, painterly takes, except that this movie, with the help of its filming locations, is even more beautiful to look at. Quick research tells me that this is the director's first film, and I can only hope there is more to come. The acting is wonderful, especially considering that most of the young cast are novices. A truly heartbreaking story which refuses to give a pat Hollywood ending (though some sense of closure would have been nice, but that is my only gripe). I found myself so taken with Pablo in this story, and wanting him to heal the wounds he is carrying around with him. In the end, we don't know whether he does or not, and that was more tragic than all that had come before. If you love a deep story, great and pristene images of Spain, and a slight but well crafted mystery, then do not miss this film. Spread the word!"
Very thought provoking.
M. B. Sakey | New Zealand | 06/14/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Spanish films (and indeed many European films) hold an extra attraction for me in that they can deal with awkward subject matters without the sensationalism or excessive moralising that seems to pervade most American mainstream films. This film features fine acting - especially by the two main protagonists - and a plot which constantly has you second guessing in the wrong direction. Some may find it's hinting at paedophilia and the boy's nudity a little disturbing. In context, it is not, and you soon realise that that aspect of the boy's behaviour being 'disturbing' is also echoed by the main male lead. As often makes a good plot, there is the element of misunderstanding and characters taking the wrong message. A totally thought provoking film."
A beautiful film thwarted by its final act
RaabH | USA | 12/06/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film is beautifully acted and the story is told with a quiet, engaging style, but I had to lower my rating due to the melodramatic final act, where one of the characters undergoes a radical reversal in personality that wasn't even hinted at beforehand. (If anything, an opposite impression is driven home relentlessly.) At that moment all believability was gone and I felt as though I'd been manipulated for the sake of the screenwriter's indulgence.
Still, I can recommend "En Tu Ausencia" for all its positive attributes and I don't regret watching it. The music soundtrack is also worth mentioning because it is so omnipresent and evocative, almost like another character in the film. But why the story had to take such an abrupt and aggravating turn at the end is a mystery."