Son of the Bride

(El Hijo de la Novia)


It is so hard to script and act convincing human emotion, and much harder to make a film that is almost all dialogue interesting. Argentina's Son of the Bride is extremely successful on both accounts, which probably explains its Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film. Since its release will occur after the nominations, it's a great way to raise the profile of the small but touching movie. At its core, Son of the Bride is a movie about familial love and expectations, universal themes that everybody can relate to. Writer/director Juan Jose Campanella (Same Love, Same Rain, Love Walked In) and co-writer Fernando Castets (Same Love, Same Rain, Victoria 392) incorporate an unabashedly sentimental film with a surprising amount of humor, which humanizes all of the more difficult parts. Everything revolves around Rafael Belvedere (Ricardo Darin, The Escape, Nine Queens), a middle-aged restaurant owner dealing with his parents, young girlfriend, daughter, and the reappearance of an old friend.

Son of the Bride is not a movie where many things happen. Events unfold through dialogue, and the movie is more about feelings than anything else. Rafael is under tremendous stress. His restaurant is not as profitable as before, and a large corporation wants to buy it. He spends too much time at work, and ignores his daughter Vicky (Gimena Nobile) on the days he has custody. He is also not willing to commit to his attractive, much younger girlfriend Naty (Natalia Verbeke, Jump Tomorrow, To the End of the Road). He has not visited his Alzheimer's stricken mother Norma (Norma Aleandro, The Escape, A Night with Sabrina Love). He does maintain a good relationship with his father Nino (Hector Alterio, Twelfth Night, Sagitario), from whom he inherited the restaurant. His father visits Norma daily, and wants to fulfill one of her lifelong dreams; to marry her in a church. Rafael thinks this is unnecessary and a waste, since it will only confuse Norma.

Rafael's workaholic tendencies take its toll with a heart attack. This heart attack may be the best thing to happen to him, since it prompts a reevaluation of everything he finds important in life. He needs to reprioritize his life and figure out what is best for him in the long run. This seems like heavy subject matter, and to a certain extent it is, but Campanella has such a light touch and frequently uses laughter to break up tense moments. The humor in Son of the Bride is what makes it such an enjoyable movie. Campanella and Castets revel in the little quirks in ordinary, everyday life. They point out to the viewer all the little foibles that these characters encounter. It helps that all of the characters have almost nothing but good intentions in mind, and that Darin, Alterio and Aleandro all give strong performances. All of the characters have fully fleshed out personalities, which makes it even more daunting for an actor to give a realistic performance. Alterio in particular has a couple of moving monologues about life and love. Son of the Bride is all the more impressive given its two-hour running time. It takes a lot for a movie this long to be mostly dialogue, and interesting dialogue at that.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 3 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for language.

Back to Movies