Tuesday, February 03, 2009


To paraphrase a remark from the movie which won Best Picture at the Oscars last year, "if this ain't a mess, it'll do until one comes along."

Camino won the best film gong at the Goyas on Sunday, along with five others. "I'm not here because I'm the best, I'm here because I'm very lucky," said director Javier Fesser on receiving the best director Goya. Indeed....though I haven't yet seen the other nominated movies.

The film operates on a number of levels, none of them entirely successfully. Firstly it is an account of the terminal illness suffered by a beautiful and vivacious little girl from Pamplona, based on the true story of the exemplary expiration in 1985 of Alexia González-Barros, now a candidate for beatification. (Fesser has shifted his timeframe to 2001 and renamed his central character Camino.)

Camino has grown up in the midst of the psychological self-flagellation that is Spanish Catholicism, with her mother and elder sister firmly in the cold, clammy grip of La Obra (Opus Dei). The strapline on the poster - Shall I pray for you to die too? - suggests to cinema-goers that Fesser intends a darkly ironic critique of those who are to greet Camino's death with a round of enthusiastic applause. But the religious freaks are neither unsympathetic enough to be properly scary antagonists, nor sympathetic enough for us to really care about their existential afflictions.

Meanwhile Camino seems predominantly oblivious to their issues, although she does dream of being chased around by a bloke who looks like a member of Bucks Fizz with big feathered wings. That's when she herself isn't onirically engaged on a mouse hunt. For Fesser has presented the inner world of the dying girl, unfortunate victim of both religious and scientific bodgery, as a whimsical mix of The Sea Inside and Amélie , such that at one stage around the mid-point V turned and asked me "Is this a kids' movie?" The score is correspondingly kitschy.

But then there's a nod too to The Exorcist with a sudden venting of green vomit, and the gruesome O.R. scenes are like Nip/Tuck on steroids.

In conclusion, I have no idea really what to make of Camino. All it seems to clarify is the line between "unique vision" and garbled message. And for a film with this subject matter a lack of courage is particularly disadvantageous.

Grade: B

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