Image taken from http://premiosgoya.academiadecine.com/candidaturas/pelicula.php?m=peliculas&id=1611
***This review contains spoilers so please do not read if you want to watch the film without prior knowledge of the plot.***
I had seen this film mentioned a lot on Twitter, where I follow actors such as Eduardo Noriega and Javier Cámara – both of whom star in the film. Both actors had tweeted about the film during the production process and I was particularly struck by the awesome cast: Cámara, Noriega, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Jordi Mollà, Alberto San Juan, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Luis Tosar, Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, Candela Peña, Clara Segura, and Leonor Watling. The film was promoted as a comedy centred around a group of male characters, between the ages of 30 and 50. I was interested to see the film due to its focus on masculinity: issues surrounding gender and sexuality have formed part of my research since my Masters year, however my interest in masculinity signals a more recent development in my work. I knew the film was unlikely to be released in UK cinemas so when I spotted the film for a bargain of a price on amazon.es I swiftly purchased it.
Una pistola en cada mano is directed by Cesc Gay, who also directed Krámpack/Nico and Dani (2000), a coming of age narrative that focuses on the sexual awakening, and homoerotic relationship, between two teenage boys. While Una pistola marks a continuation of Gay’s investigation of masculinity, its focus is not teenage boys but rather, as I mentioned above, a group of men aged between 30 and 50 years old. The film is set and filmed in Barcelona, although the city’s iconic buildings and sites are, for the most part, absent from the mise-en-scène. The film is structured around a series of vignettes in which, typically, two characters have a frank discussion about particularly challenging issues they are facing in their lives.
The first of these vignettes stars Sbaraglia and Fernández. The pair are school friends who have not seen one another in a long time, and their encounter is a chance one, facilitated by E. (Fernández) deciding to take shelter from a heavy rain shower. It becomes evident that neither of the men are particularly content with their lot, and the viewer detects that there is a hint of resentment, at least in terms of J. (Sbaraglia) who insensitively asks about the death of his old friend’s father and who makes a snide remark about not being invited to his wedding.
The second segment details a conversation between S. (Javier Cámara) and his ex-wife, in which he confesses his love for her – only to be told some surprising news. The scene is at once awkward and moving; this is underscored by Cámara’s appearance as rather rotund and with a receding hairline, in stark contrast to his turn as camp air steward Joserra in Pedro Almodóvar’s most recent production, Los amantes pasajeros/I’m So Excited.
The third vignette – my favourite – stars Ricardo Darín and Luis Tosar. The two men meet by chance in a park, having met the previous summer while on holiday. G. (Darín) is a little out of sorts because he has followed his wife to her lover’s apartment. He shares the details of his wife’s infidelity with L. (Tosar), who has also recently split with his partner, and the two men debate what G. should do next. The way in which their exchange is filmed – and indeed this applies in some of the other segments – indicates the curious proximity of the two men, in spite of their status as acquaintances; this is underscored by the close-ups of the backs of their heads, side-by-side on the park bench.
The fourth segment is the most uncomfortable to watch – at least in my opinion. The setting for this encounter is an open-plan office. P. (Eduardo Noriega) approaches Mamen (Candela Peña) as he is leaving and offers her a lift. Attempting – unsuccessfully – to flirt with her, the viewer sympathises with him, interpreting his ineptitude as shyness. However, we quickly learn that he in fact has a wife, and a child. Mamen does not hesitate in teaching him a humiliating lesson.
The fifth and sixth vignettes are intercut, building up a dialogue between the two couples in each part. María (Leonor Watling) spots A. (Alberto San Juan) and offers him a lift to the party where several of the characters are headed. In the meantime, their partners, Sara (Cayetana Guillén Cuervo) and M. (Jordi Mollà) happen upon one another in a wine shop. Each of the women talk to their partner’s friends about issues that they are struggling with – including domestic violence and erectile dysfunction – meaning that when the two men encounter each other at the party, they are unable to make conversation or even to look one another in their eye.
The film ends with a short sequence bringing together the majority of the film’s characters at S.’s party. A brief episode involving his neighbour closes the film on a humorous note, only subtly implying the link between the two characters to the viewer.
The segments solely involving male characters prove the most interesting, at least from my perspective. Those depicting conversations between a male and a female character are notably more awkward, and the dialogue is more serious and less humorous. The film’s focus on middle-aged masculinity reflects, what I see as, a wider cinematic exploration of crises in manhood. Examples of this include Daniel Craig’s ageing James Bond; Andrew Garfield’s uninvincible Spiderman; and Robert Downey Jr’s post-traumatic-stress-suffering Ironman. In Gay’s film, these crises stem mainly from fractured romantic relationships, but involve also the failing bodies and the tortured minds of some of the characters. A link might be traced then between this and other representations of “inadequate” Spanish masculinities in recent years in films such as Los lunes al sol (Fernando León de Aranoa, 2002), which focused on unemployed Galician dock workers, and Mar Adentro (Alejandro Amenábar, 2004), which depicted the story of Ramón Sampedro – a quadriplegic who fought for 26 years for the right to end his life.
One criticism I would direct at the film is its unique focus on heterosexual men, and its failure to incorporate a homosexual male character. The inclusion of one vignette detailing the choices and problems facing a homosexual man of the same age would have made for an intriguing point of contrast.
In sum, I would recommend the film for those seeking a light-hearted comedy that is not afraid to tackle sensitive issues.