There’s an intriguing, poignant, and fairly bizarre idea at the center of the 2010 Spanish drama “Amador”. Marcela (Magaly Solier) is a woman struggling to find an ounce of happiness in her life. Her husband Nelson (Pietro Sibille) has promised her the world including owning her own flower shop. But he seems content with running a second-hand flower business out of their tiny apartment. He sends out cheap laborers to get discarded flowers from dumpsters. He then picks out the salvageable ones, prunes them, sprays them with floral air freshener, then sells them on the street. It’s quite a concept but its far from what Marcela wants.
One day Marcela packs her suitcase and leaves a note for Nelson telling him she’s leaving. But while waiting at the bus stop she collapses. It turns out she’s pregnant. Knowing she can’t handle a baby on her own, she heads back home before Nelson arrives. She never tells Nelson her initial plans and even more, she doesn’t tell him she’s pregnant. This gets into one aspect of this movie that drove me crazy. Marcela never tells anyone anything! This leads to several predicaments that could have been avoided with better judgement and better communication.
Things get tougher when the couple’s refrigerator goes out leaving them with no way to refrigerate their flowers. With no money for a new one, Marcela is forced to take on another job as a caregiver for a sick, bedridden elderly man named Amador (Celso Bugallo). She’s hired by Amador’s daughter who seems to see her father as a burden. She leaves a phone number and medication instructions then leaves. Marcela cooks Amador’s meals, gives him his pills, does his laundry, and eventually forms a connection with him, something he grows to appreciate. But Amador’s declining health soon leads to several decisions that carry all sorts of moral implications.
There are many things that this film does right. Unfortunately there are several stumbling blocks that keeps me from being able to fully embrace it. It’s hard to get into one of my problems without wandering into spoiler territory. I’m not going to do that, but let me just say there are some breaks from logic that were tough for me to get past. There’s a big turning point midway through the movie that effects the rest of the story and adds an interesting dynamic to what we’ve seen so far. But with it comes some head-scratching questions that the film tries to but never adequately deals with. I spent a lot of the second half of the film focusing more on these gaping illogical holes than on the actual story.
Another problem is with the handling of the Marcela character from writer and director Fernando León de Aranoa. She is incredibly passive when it comes to her situations and decision making. It’s another movie example of how a little communication could solve a lot of the problems that come her way. We also spend a lot of time just watching Marcela think, stare, and look concerned. And trust me, I mean A LOT of time and it ends up bogging the movie down a tad. Now I can’t really fault Solier’s performance. She’s very good here. But de Aranoa chooses to keep his camera in her face for long stretches and directs her to be slow and deliberate with almost everything she does. This did eventually slow things down a little too much for me.
If you can wade through the intentional deliberate pacing and forgive a couple of obvious plot holes, there is a lot to like with “Amador”. There’s such a great concept at the heart of this stor. I also think Marcela is a fascinating character and I particularly enjoyed her candid and often times amusing conversations with Amador. With a little better direction and a sharper script it could have been even better.