Whew…. I’m still at things, although there are times I think I need to clone myself to get it all done… Here we go again with some more “End of the World As We Know It” fun here at the Litterbox with another Spanish film, “Los Últimos Días” aka “The Last Days”, that takes the idea of the Apocalypse and gives it yet another somewhat unique and unexpected cause as it’s premise. No big explosions… no global pandemic… no ravenous monsters or aliens… no divine rapture… Nope. Nothing but good ol’ agoraphobia. Well… OK… “agoraphobia on steroids”… but still… really nothing more than just being afraid of the great outdoors. Hmmm? So you think it doesn’t really sound all that bad to you? Just fort up inside your cozy house with all your stuff and wait for the “crazy” to harmlessly pass on by? Certainly nothing “world shattering”, eh? Well…. you’d be soooo sooo wrong.
Our synopsis goes like this: “2013. A mysterious epidemic spreads across the planet. Soon all of humanity develops an irrational fear of open spaces that causes panic attacks so severe they result in almost instant death. Eventually, the world population finds itself trapped inside buildings. As the Spanish city of Barcelona descends into chaos, Marc and his colleague Enrique, set off together on an almost impossible quest to cross the city and find Julia, his missing girlfriend, and Enrique’s hospitalized father, without somehow managing to ever go outside.”
Yep… talk about an original idea. When I saw the Trailer for this one, I just knew I was hooked. Luckily for me… right around that time, the UK Region 2 DVD made it’s appearance. One quick shopping trip later and this wee Catgirl hooked herself up with a copy just in time for our Apocalypse Movie Marathon. So… if you still want more End of the World fun, then just hunker down and “Read On” to hear all the details…. 😉
Gotta hand it to the Spanish. Of the films I’ve selected for our “End of the World” themed reviews, they seem to have come up with the most original takes on the subject. So far, that’s been a good thing. A really good thing. Not that Neko doesn’t like her rampaging “heavy metal” cannibal marauders and zombies and mutants as much as the next girl, but now and again a little something different can be a nice thing too, plot-wise.
We definitely get that here. Oh yes, indeed.
Our film gets underway as we are introduced to our main character and hero Marc (played by Quim Gutiérrez) and his longtime girlfriend Julia (played by Marta Etura). They’re that typical modern young urban couple you see in a lot of films. Each with their own career… Marc as some kind of computer security programmer working at a big faceless company, and artistic Julia as a self employed puppet and doll-maker… and each wanting something different from a relationship based more on young love and passion than on thinking about marriage and the long term notion of being together. Julia’s biological clock has struck the hour, and she’s ready for the “next big thing” commitment wise. A baby. Marc’s baby. But he’s too ground under by his work pressures and the very real possibility that his job is perilously close to termination over problems with the rushed project he’s writing code for. For him it’s just not the right time… and you get the feeling he’s actually not interested in the possibility of it ever being the right time. That creates problems between him and Julia… especially since she’s already discovered she’s pregnant. Not that she tells him…. which turns out to be a bad idea once the proverbial shit hits the fan.
And what would that “shit” be? How about the ever so quiet arrival of a peculiar epidemic, striking almost randomly at first across the entire globe. Some weird and inexplicable outbreak that isn’t even recognized as a threat until it’s entirely too darn late to stop it. People become housebound. Think those “hoarders” you see on the Discovery Channel crossed with those violent Japanese “hikikomori”. They almost get missed at first… but as more and more people become affected, the truth becomes unavoidable. People are somehow becoming violently allergic to open spaces at a dangerous rapid rate. A mental derangement? A physical one? The truth is never explained, and it makes the result all that much more frightening. Marc has a fight with Julia… and angrily storms off to work only to have the “syndrome” strike him once he’s there trapping him at work with all of the others similarly affected. That’s when our story really takes off.
With the pockets of people trapped here and there throughout the city and the slow breakdown of civil services, communications, and the like, the survivors begin to deal with the reality of trying to survive with only what they can find within the limited spaces they find themselves trapped in. Yep…. there’s going to be eating of rats and pigeons… and even cannibalism, along with the general breakdown of all law and order. Pretty soon our hero Marc decides he’s got to try to reach Julia, somehow, anyhow. So… towards that end he finds himself in a somewhat uneasy alliance with Enrique (played by José Coronado). Enrique is the “hired gun” that the company had sent to fire the dead weight on the project, and Marc and he most definitely didn’t get off to the best of starts back before all the crazy got a hold of things, but now each of them needs the other to pull of an impossible journey. Marc has the food, water and supplies once owned by the first of his office-mates to succumb to the syndrome, and Enrique has a battery powered GPS stolen from a car in the parking garage that will allow them to navigate the subway tunnels, sewers and crawlspaces beneath Barcelona. They hate each other. That much is plain, but they also need each other and so with the situation worsening moment by moment, a truce is forged. Enrique will help Marc reach Julia and then he’ll be given the rest of the supplies he needs to reach his father, languishing in a nursing hospital.
This is perhaps the best part of the film, as our duo navigates their way through the underground passages of the city avoiding threats from desperate survivors bent on living at any cost, to dealing with escaped wildlife from the Barcelona zoo (a giant grizzly bear they have to fight in a church… one nasty, bad ass fight…), and all the while discovering that despite hating each other before all this started, now they are forging a mutual bond in the face of all obstacles that will make them friends.
So… it’s a buddy film? Ummmm? Sort of. It’s also an individual examination of their own lives. Marc has to come to terms with the idea that he truly loves Julia beyond all reason. Especially once he discovers she’s pregnant with his child, alone and without him lost somewhere in the city. Yeah, the world sucks… it’s doubtful that the two of them will find each other let alone raise a child together in a world like this, but that doesn’t matter. He has to accept that it doesn’t change the simple basic truth. “Life just happens”. You can’t control it… can’t avoid it… can’t plan it into submission. You either roll with it, or it rolls over you and leaves you in ruins. Enrique on his part, has to realize that his life isn’t without meaning as well. Once a loner, confident that he could make it on his own merits, he becomes entangled in Marc’s plight and comes to realize the importance of having human connections, of mattering to someone.
It’s a hard trip. Dangerous and deadly with moments of utter despair and terror balanced against softer moments of joyful triumph, such as one scene in which our pair manage to sidestep the prohibition of going outside to seize the moment and cleverly team up to capture the desperately needed drinking water of a torrential thunderstorm. There’s a lot of good bits like this scattered throughout and even though things don’t end perfectly for our heroes, there’s an ultimate triumph for them both by the end, when it’s revealed that children born after the “syndrome” seem totally unaffected by it, giving us a sense that although the old world is dead, there will be a new society to rise again from the ruins of that world to build their own future. (Yes… yes…. Marc and Julia are reunited by the end… it’s just that kind of story. Like you all couldn’t have guessed it, o’ Gentle Visitors… 😉 )
I definitely liked this one. So did my sweet Carolyn, who’s usually a bit more on the fence about some of my foreign language movie choices. I give this one a well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5 and I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for more such offbeat Spanish goodies in the future. 😉 It’s a simple story, told well, with some great acting by our leads and nice overall direction and cinematography. The British Region 2 DVD is presented widescreen and with excellent English subtitles… although again these are hard-subbed rather than selectable (I’m beginning to wonder if this is going to be a continuing trend with UK DVD releases). It’s available most of the usual places for right around 12-18$ US and is certainly a pretty good choice given that the Spanish DVD is probably a bit pricy to import for most of you. (Although crazy lil’ me might have to snag a copy just for fun….)
Our Trailer? Yep right on time, as always… 😉