Sanity versus marriage

Juan José Campanella’s bitter sweet exploration of the obstacles to real love, El hijo de la novia, paints a familiar Argentine picture


Son Of The Bride
Juan José Campanella
2001 (Spanish), JEMPSA
123 minutes

Reviewed by Georgina Jiménez

LATAMROB rating: ****

RAFAEL BELEVERE (Ricardo Darín) is a chain smoker and caffeine addict, the hard-working owner of a prestigious restaurant in Buenos Aires – a divorced, business-like middle-aged man hungry for financial success.

The frantic pace of his lifestyle leaves no room for rest, and the problems of raising his six-year-old daughter bequeathed by his divorce mean he does not want to enter another marriage.

But when his heart gives in and he survives, Ricardo decides to start anew with a clean slate – a step that proves harder than it seems.

The situation in Argentina is forcing him to modernise or sell the business, and his loving and patient girlfriend Naty wants him to propose. His ex-wife – who has managed to restore her sanity through psychotherapy and meditation – teases him for being a nervous wreck, and threatens to move to Mexico with their daughter and a boyfriend because the child needs a stable family. Worst of all, his father, wanting to recover some of his own years lost to the quest for prosperity decides that it is now time to tie the knot properly (as he should have done 44 years ago) with Ricardo’s mother – now suffering from Alzheimer’s. Ricardo is recruited to help and approaches Padre Mario, the family priest, who objects because the bride is not fully aware because of her condition of the commitment she is about to make!

Accurate observations

It seems that the only respite Ricardo will have is when his childhood friend Juan Carlos (Eduardo Blanco) makes a comeback – with no apparent baggage – after years of being absent. Despite the melodramatic content of this film, it is well scripted, entertaining and funny – but it is also incredibly deep. Its merit lies in the very accurate observations it makes about everyday life, women’s dynamics, friendship, growing old, economic development and even religious bureaucracy as obstacles to the fulfilment of real love.

Darín is superb as the main character, and the same could be said for the rest of the cast. The bitter sweet tone of the movie seems to reflect the attitude of all Latin Americans about getting on with life despite endless economic crises, absurd rules and corruption.

You may find yourself wanting to cry at times, but this film is definitely no weepy and more likely to make you laugh out loud – a real treat in every way and a film to make you think.

Son of the Bride was nominated for an Oscar in 2002 as Best Foreign Language Film. It won the Best Latin-American Feature Film, and Juan José Campanella was awarded the Special Grand Prize of the Jury, and it was also was nominated for the Grand Prix des Amériques at the Montréal World Film Festival 2001. It has gained numerous other awards.

Georgina Jiménez is a freelance Mexican writer