Friday, October 7, 2011

Yo también


Daniel (Pablo Pineda) has down syndrome, but this does not prevent him from getting a university degree and a job in a typical  office. There he meets Laura (Lola Dueñas), a co-worker whose deranged outlook in life leads her to sleep with different men, get wasted in pubs, and leave a bad impression on everyone regardless if they know her or not. The unlikely pair form a special kind of friendship, but how could they bring it to the next level when everyone around them seems to be against a possible relationship. Even she.

This indie film tackles the issue of Down Syndrome. The main character has it. His brother and sister in law run a dance studio which specifically caters to people with the said syndrome, turning their frustrations in life into something artsy like dance. There has not been many films discussing this issue, and it is a good thing that the director pushed through with the project even with the lack of funding, which he confessed to the audience after the movie.

The film is loosely based on one aspect of Pablo Pineda's live, his love life in particular. The said actor was not really an actor, but is quite popular in Spain because of his achievement as the first person with Down Syndrome to get a university degree. In a way we could say that the film is about him. The director said that it was a crazy idea at first, but seeing the finished product you would not even know that Pineda was not an actor. He is a natural.

The first name to flash on the screen while the opening credits roll is "Lola Dueñas". This actress has been present in most Spanish films I have seen for the last half a decade or so, more than Penelope Cruz or Maribel Verdú. Spanish directors seem to like her very much because she is a talented actress, and my personal opinion is that she is very good in wacky roles. Here she does wacky alright, but she also delivers good drama once the source of her character's angst is revealed. The director said that she won a Goya for this and that she was very hands on in terms of research for her role.

What makes the movie a success is not its contribution to Down Syndrome as a field of study, but rather in presenting it in a manner that it could be easier to relate to, through the aspect of relationships. When one says Down Syndrome what immediately comes to mind are the physical characteristics of people who have it, along with the common connotations we associate with them like their being very good at something, being so smart but also so childish. In this movie we get to realize that hey, they also suffer from dilemmas that people without their disability suffer from: life, relationships, intimacy issues, etc. In short, they might be special which leads us to treat them differently, but in the end, they are adults too. Adults with needs. Adults with wants. And sexual urges.

As a film it works well as a comedy, but it is not the usual senseless comedy that you are most likely to see from mainstream cinema. This one is a comedy with a purpose, and I think that purpose has been achieved because of the director's vision and execution.

Last note, I really liked it when Laura asked Daniel why he wanted to be “normal”. I guess we all yearn to be something we are not at one point or another in our lives. One thing I have realized is that being “normal” is already hard enough as it is but one way or another we all want everything to go perfectly in our lives, according to our own plans. We want perfection or something a little bit closer to it, at least. There is nothing wrong with that, I guess. After seeing this movie you will find that it seems to be a common human trait.

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