Happy New Year, Grandma

photo from bfi's page
I chose Happy New Year, Grandma from the huge list of films shown at BFI's 56 London Film Festival because it is in Basque. Yes, I chose a film just for the language spoken in it. I'd never heard more than a few words of Basque spoken. That's a good reason, I don't care what you say. It's a language isolate; less related to French or Spanish than Welsh is. That's worth hearing.

But, you know, the premise sounded good too. Cranky old grandmother that pretends to be senile for attention? or is senile? and won't die and won't go into a home. So eventually the family thinks of killing her. And it's a comedy. That's funny, right?

Obviously, it'd be a dark comedy.

One problem: it's not really funny. There are some amusing bits, but they're few and far between. For the most part it's just sad. And the end. Oof. It's been called 'hard to watch.' I can't do better than that.

I might have formed this impression because I didn't, couldn't, identify with any of the characters. For every decision that every character made, I would have made a different one. It's literally impossible find a film with fewer sympathetic characters. But that's not to say the film wasn't worthwhile.

It's left me wondering, am I that different from these people? If I was from a culture that prized family so highly, would I have been able to sympathise with this family? Would I been able to laugh (darkly) at their tragedy? Or, is the Telmo Esnal, director and co-writer, just some sort of sociopath (which I realize isn't really the thing, but is a convenient shorthand)? So, lots to think about. And I like thinking.

Also, hearing Basque for an hour and a half was good. It's obviously been influenced a lot by indo-european languages, but mostly it's like nothing you've heard. That was good to hear.

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