Only Human

Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring: Guillermo Toledo, Marian Aguilera, Maria Botto, Fernando Ramallo

Directors: Teresa De Pelegri; Dominic Harari

ONLY HUMAN, directed by husband and wife team Dominic Harari and Teresa De Pelegri, is an amusing, if formulaic comedy set in Madrid, in which Leni (Marian Aguilera), a fine Jewish daughter, returns home to introduce her boyfriend, Rafi (Guillermo Toledo), who happens to be Palestinian, to her family.

Rafi enters a fractious environment containing an overbearing, melodramatic matriarch Gloria (Norma Aleandro); a senile grandfather Dudu (Max Berliner); Leni’s sexually prolific older sister, Tania (Maria Botto) and her younger brother David (Fernando Ramallo), a recent convert to Orthodox Judaism.

Naturally when the family discovers Rafi’s nationality, the mother and brother think he’s a terrorist, the sister wants to seduce him and the grandfather remains largely oblivious.

Not only does he have to overcome these difficulties, but also the misfortune of dropping a block of frozen soup from the kitchen window of the families seventh floor apartment onto the head of Leni’s father, Ernesto (Mario Martin).

Thus ensues a farce in which Rafi justifies the fears of mother and son by behaving increasingly strangely, endangers his relationship with Leni due to the inadvertent assault on her father and Ernesto, awaking from concussion wanders through the streets of Madrid in to the arms of an Amazonian prostitute.

This film is nominally about Arab, Israeli tensions but in truth the subject matter could have been about Catholics and Protestants, perhaps even cats and dogs, for the focus is comedy derived from situation as opposed to politics.

The film as the title suggest, is about human relations, and through the course of the movie the characters do come to a better understanding of themselves and each other. The central message, that love is the key to a happy couple as opposed to their ancestry is crystal clear throughout. What is nice is the way in which the character of Gloria evolves past cliche through the course of the narrative and indeed that of Tania too.

Gloria, we discover, is understandably tense due to the fact she has not had sex for over 15 years and her belief that ‘there will be peace in Israel’ before Ernesto gives her an orgasm. For Tania, orgasms abound, but she is desperate for what her mother has got, the love (emotionally at least) of a doting partner.

Some of the situations are well engineered, notably the scene in which Rafi gets pinned to the bathroom wall before a urinating and oblivious Dudu, but some of them are also peculiar. When concussed Ernesto confuses a prostitute for his wife, it is pathetic as opposed to humorous and feels out of keeping with the rest of the movie.

If you’re looking for a caustic comedy that gets to the nub of the Arab, Israeli conflict, you’d be better off looking elsewhere, but if you like comedy light and inoffensive, this congenial but predictable film may serve to pass a pleasant hour or two.

2 out of 6 stars

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