Director: Agustí Villaronga
Starring: Francesc Colomer, Marina Comas, Nora Navas, Roger Casamajor
Language: Catalan, Spanish
Duration: 108 min.
Set in Catalonia during the immediate post-war years. A young boy named Andreu, who belongs to the losing side in the conflict, happens upon the bodies of a man and a young boy in the woods. Local officials want to blame Andreu's father for the situation; in response, Andreu decides to try and help his dad by setting out in search of the real killers.
Black Bread is a film directed by Agustí Villaronga, based on a novel of the same name by Emili Teixidor. It was nominated in fourteen categories at the 25th Goya Awards (Spain's Oscars) winning nine of them including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is Spain's official submission to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the first time a Catalan language film was chosen to represent Spain at the Oscars.
Repeating a common theme in recent Spanish films that presents the effects of war through the eyes of a young child such as Pan's Labyrinth, Black Bread takes place shortly after the civil war and follows Andreu (Francesc Colomer) a young boy who happens upon the bodies of a local father and son. When the local authorities pin the blame on Andreu's father Farriol (Roger Casamajor), a member of the losing side of the war, Andreu starts his own investigation and subsequently learns that his family holds many dark secrets.
It starts off with such a shocking and violent sequence, a scene that would fit perfectly into a fantasy milieu like Game of Thrones, that it almost sets the bar too high for the rest of the film that follows. Sure everything is well crafted and the actors perform admirably, especially the young wide-eyed Francesc Colomer and Marina Comas who plays Nuria, a young scarred and sexually precocious cousin. However the film's intensity slowly decrescendos from that powerful opening all the way to a very underplayed ending that feels like we've only seen the first act of an epic story.
It does feature some strong cinematography that gives the film a dark and uneasy mood and has plenty of melodramatic twists and mildly supernatural themes that mainstream audiences gobble up. However, the lack of a strong finish dulls the impact of Villaronga's metaphor laden message. This is the type of film that I think has a very good chance of making the Oscar short list, but I still can't help but think that they should have sent Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In instead.
— Bonjour Tristesse