The oddly titled Spanish family drama “Live Twice, Love Once” isn’t shy about taking several familiar themes and movie tropes then tossing them all into one big pot. A debilitating disease, a strained marriage, secrets from past, an unlikely road trip. Just some of the well-worn story elements that find their way into the film. Yet there’s no denying the sincerity and heart at the center of this otherwise routine picture.
It’s funny, throughout almost the entirety of “Live Twice, Love Once” I was constantly aware that I wasn’t seeing anything particularly new or fresh. But it’s a testament to the earnest approach taken by director Maria Ripoll and screenwriter Maria Minguez along with a cast ￼fully in sync with the slightly offbeat humor ￼￼and honest sensibility.
The movie is built around the character Emilio (terrifically played by Oscar Martinez), an ornery retired university mathematics professor and widower. Our first glimpse of him is through a flashback where a young Emilio has a chance encounter with a girl named Margarita. We see she is clearly interested in him. He, although obviously drawn to her, is more interested in his studies.
Move to present day where Emilio’s daily routine consists of breakfast at his favorite corner cafe, admiring his record collection, and working number puzzles in his Valencia apartment. His life takes an unexpected turn after he is diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. He tries to hide it from his daughter Julia (Inma Cuesta) but that turns out to be easier said than done.
Julia has her hands full at home. Her iPhone addicted daughter Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell) is entering that rebellious teen mode (parents know the one) while her unemployed goof of a husband Felipe (Nacho Lopez) spends more time trying to be an online self-help coach than looking for a job. None of them have an especially close relationship with Emilio which sets the table for the bulk of the story. Julia wants to take care of her father, Emilio wants no part of it. But as his memories dim and his recollections get murkier he realizes he may not have a choice. And that one memory of a long ago meeting with Margarita could be what brings this fractured family together.
Alzheimer’s is a disease whose cruelty not only effects the person afflicted but also their loved ones who (for the most part) are utterly helpless. So this isn’t easy material to respectfully ￼navigate. “Live Twice, Love Once” comes at the subject with a wry sense of humor rather than some ill-advised broad comedy approach. It’s more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, that is until the second half which understandably gets heavier and is much more dramatic.
While I can’t (and won’t) deny the movie’s dual effect (it’s both heart-wrenching and heartwarming), I also can’t deny that it ventures pretty deep into routine sentimentality. Specifically in the final act where a lot of conveniences fall in place in order to get us to the bigger emotional moments. Still, there is enough sweet, real-life feeling along with characters you want to spend time with to make the film’s more conventional moments easy to digest.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS