Tuesday, June 18, 2024

“THE OTHER WAY AROUND”

THE STORY – After 15 years as a couple, Ale and Alex decide to throw a party to celebrate their separation, leaving their loved ones perplexed.

THE CAST – Itsaso Arana, Vito Sanz, Fernando Trueba & Jon Viar

THE TEAM – Jonás Trueba (Director/Writer), Itsaso Arana & Vito Sanz (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 114 Minutes


Will they? Won’t they? A film about a couple getting together onscreen is only as compelling as its script. Credit to writer-director Jonás Trueba, then, for overcoming the same-y nature of this tired setup by making “The Other Way Around” about a couple who are about to break up. It’s a decision that infuses his slight but insightful film with enough difference to make it stand out from its rom-com contemporaries. This film is not just a rom-com, it’s a much more introspective journey, one that offers plenty to chew on for couples, filmmakers, and viewers, as the film we’re watching, and the film the characters are making, overlap and inform each other.

A common thread in several entries in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival is coming to terms with endings. “This Life Of Mine” sees its lead make peace with her changed circumstances in the face of illness, while the baseball teams in “Eephus” enjoy one last game before their beloved playing field closes for good. “The Other Way Around” opens with a couple, Ale (Itsaso Arana) and Alex (Vito Sanz), wondering why couples separate and if they would benefit from a breakup. There’s a stoicism to this pair that’s refreshing. The film is mainly free of hysterics or overstressed emotions. Hey, if you’re going to break up and throw a party to mark it, you might as well be practical about it. Ale frequently refers to her father’s theory that breakups, and not unions, deserve celebration, and it’s a theory to which “The Other Way Around” commits. Don’t expect “Normal People” or “Scenes From A Marriage” – this pair is too busy and practical for that level of emotion.

As the pair goes about telling friends and family about their impending split, everyone is shocked to find this ideal couple calling it quits after 15 years. Part of what makes this film so compelling is waiting to see why exactly they’ve taken this decision. Trueba and his lead actors collaborated on the script, inviting comparison to Richard Linklater and his two stars in the “Before” trilogy. We’re much less likely to cheer on a couple to separate, but “The Other Way Around” doesn’t readily clarify how we should react. The film has a basic comedic setup at its core, but any potential for comedy is underplayed, leaving it feeling more wry than laugh-a-minute. Broader laughs might have sold the central premise to a wider audience, though it does invite pause for thought in its final considerate iteration.

Ale is a film director and Alex is an actor, both working on the same film. Trueba cleverly links the processes of planning this breakup to the process of filmmaking. We watch this pair put on this party and put this film together bit by bit, forever unsure if they can pull it off. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but when you know how difficult getting a film from script to screen can be, planning a civilized separation could be a cakewalk by comparison. Saying much more risks giving away some of the film’s conceits, but suffice it to say that its twists and turns are all as tongue-in-cheek and wry as the rest of its plotting.

Arana and Sanz make for a compelling couple. Given the breakup, there’s little in the way of affection between them, but their curiosity and determination to investigate what this breakup will mean for them are compelling. Trueba eschews easy audience placation for a truthful probe of what (ending) a relationship entails. “The Other Way Around” is incisive and familiar at times, even in moments when it fractures its own narrative. The film has the power to surprise right up to the end. If you’ve ever been in doubt about a relationship, many of the questions and possibilities that arise in the film may sound familiar. Just don’t go in expecting to stroke a chin rather than bust a gut.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Two likable leads and a fresh spin on relationship pitfalls keep you watching.

THE BAD - The dry sense of humor won’t be for everyone, and it’s too long.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Two likable leads and a fresh spin on relationship pitfalls keep you watching.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The dry sense of humor won’t be for everyone, and it’s too long.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"THE OTHER WAY AROUND"