The Weakness of the Bolshevik / La flaqueza del bolchevique (2003) Dir. Manuel Martín Cuenca

I can’t help comparing this movie to Map of the Sounds of Tokyo. Both Spanish productions. Both touching upon the loneliness of people living in a big city. Both about an unlikely couple. Yet, The Weakness of the Bolshevik is superior on every level.

On the surface, the story talks about a relationship of a grown-up businessman with a 14-year-old student. If we look closely, however, we’ll see that what goes on between them is an extraordinary feeling that can’t be described in words. Pablo (Luis Tosar) and María (María Valverde) meet by a mere coincidence. He drives past her school when she turns her face towards him. That brief moment, when he sees her pretty, gentle features, changes something in him. It’s there in his eyes. One of those magical moments. In order to get closer to her he needs to lie, pretending he’s a cop sent to investigate the drug sell at her school. María’s too smart to fall for that, yet she goes along with this little game. Through meetings in a park and brief, but meaningful conversations their relationship blossoms, and their feeling becomes stronger. What is it that makes them so well-matched? They both seem lonely and detached as if they didn’t fit into their worlds. Scene by scene we witness how they build their own world, a place where they can be together.

The amazing thing is how their relationship changes. First, they play cat and mouse. They follow each other, pretending they don’t care. In fact, they both care, but not in an obvious, desperate way. Next, they realize they can’t stay away. They’re drawn together. Then, we would expect their love to be satisfied. Quite intriguingly, it never is. And yet, this movie vibrates with genuine emotions. It’s all in between their lines and in their eyes. Although they never say the word ‘love,’ we feel it all the more strongly. For these reasons, The Weakness wins over Map of the Sounds of Tokyo. In Map, they uses the word ‘sensual’ as a herald of things to come. Nevertheless, the word is completely out of place. The movie lacks subtlety; it’s rid of human vulnerability. Ryu and David have sex, but it’s the only thing that connects them, especially since it’s aggressive and mechanical. In The Weakness, everything is untouched, unspoken, unfulfilled — it makes it real.

Unlike Rinko Kikuchi and Sergi López, Luis Tocar and María Valverde are perfectly matched. The undeniable chemistry between them is tangible. We believe them; we believe they could be a couple. Valverde introduces youthful freshness and gentleness, at the same time being feminine and sexy. Tocar leads his character in such a way that we get attached to him though he’s not crystal clear. Being lost, lonely, and behaving like an asshole makes him human and convincing. His brilliant performance is in his face and eyes. His gaze is electrifying.

Manuel Martín Cuenca masterfully reveals to us a beautiful love story. He brings out a whole range of emotions out of his actors. Even if it feels wrong for a teenage girl to be involved with a man well more than twice her age, at the end, it feels right. Actually, we feel they’re destined to be together. Apart from many subtle sexual connotations, there’s no perversion, the kind of perversion we find in Map. Brilliantly directed, performed, and written – a must!

Long days, pleasant nights,

Veronica Bazydlo

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