“I’m a love addict.”
Dark Blue Almost Black is an impressive directorial debut from Spanish director Daniel Sanchez Arevalo. The ambitious plot involves a number of characters who are all trapped for various reasons in lives they didn’t choose.
The film begins with Jorge (Quim Gutierrez) setting fire to a trashcan in a demonstrative denial of his father’s wish that Jorge become a janitor. Ironically, this incident begins a chain of events that basically ensures that Jorge becomes just the thing he so fervently wanted to avoid. The film then skips ahead several years, and there’s Jorge … the janitor of his building. But on top of working a job he finds boring and demeaning, Jorge now is also the caretaker for his father, Andres (Hector Colome) who’s in a wheelchair and brain damaged. While it’s obvious that Jorge isn’t happy, he takes care of his father with the same dogged determination he applies to his job as a janitor.
With a great deal of drive and desire to get out of the rut he finds himself in, Jorge has managed to get a BA in Business Administration. But so far, his diploma has got him nowhere. While Jorge is trapped by circumstance and duty, Jorge’s brother Antonio (Antonio de la Torre) is literally locked up in prison. He attends a theater workshop for prisoners where he meets Paula (Marta Etura). They strike up a relationship based on mutual need, and Antonio is well aware that Paula is the type of girl he wouldn’t stand a chance with on the outside.
Other characters include Jorge’s childhood friend Israel (Raul Arevalo). Nicknamed Sean for his likeness to Sean Penn, Israel and Jorge hang out on the apartment building’s rooftop and enjoy a quiet relationship based on regret and longing. Israel, however, discovers some unpleasant truths about his parents’ relationship, and this discovery sparks a chain of illuminating events.
Also in Jorge’s life is his childhood sweetheart Natalia (Eva Pallares)–a girl who lives in the same apartment building and who has just returned from an internship in Germany. Their relationship is similar to Antonio’s relationship with Paula, for Jorge has a sneaking suspicious that Natalia is too good for him, and the giant chip on his shoulder doesn’t help.
There’s a lot going on in this film, but the plot never loses control of the storyline (also written by the director). All of the characters seem to try to break free of their chains–emotional, financial, and sexual–but some of characters’ attempts to gain freedom result in more problems and painful choices. But here’s the crucial thing–while Jorge may make a choice that’s questionable, it’s still a choice, and that’s what matters.
Ultimately this is a bittersweet tale that deals with compromise and adjusting dreams to painful reality. Arevalo rather cleverly engages the viewer in dreams and compromises too–this is achieved in several ways through our expectations of the characters. Take Antonio, for example, when he’s released from prison and moves home, I found myself saying, “ha! The perfect solution. He can start helping take care of the dad and then Jorge can go off and have a career….” By placing that possibility in front of the viewer, the film creates exactly the sorts of wishful scenarios in our heads faced by our characters, and just like our characters, we have to deal with–and adjust to–the realities of life.