Hermosa juventud (Beautiful Youth, 2014)

foto-hermosa-juventud-3-183

Directed by Jaime Rosales

Written by Jaime Rosales and Enric Rufas

Starring: Ingrid García Jonsson, Carlos Rodríguez, Inma Nieto

BY RAQUEL MARTÍNEZ

In December 2014, the Spanish Prime Minister  ̶  Mariano Rajoy  ̶  claimed that the economic crisis was ‘history’.[1] In the same year, Catalan director Jaime Rosales released Beautiful Youth, a bleak observation of the effects of such crisis on one of Spain’s most vulnerable sectors: young people. Among them, Rosales focuses on the so called ‘ni-nis’ [2] ̶ school drop-outs who can only find extremely precarious work, if any at all.

Natalia (a stunning Ingrid García Jonsson) and Carlos (Carlos Rodríguez) are a twenty year-odd couple from a working class area in the outskirts of Madrid. Natalia lives with her two younger siblings and her mother (Inma Nieto), the latter the sole breadwinner in the family. Natalia carries out random chores and babysits her youngest sister, but spends most of her time either strolling around shopping centres or sleeping. Carlos, in contrast, supports his invalid mother thanks to a few badly paid construction jobs that he and his best friend Raúl (Fernando Barona) are offered sporadically. Tired of being poor, Natalia and Carlos decide to take part in an amateur adult production as a quick way to earn some easy cash. Trouble starts when, shortly after, Natalia finds out she is pregnant. She decides to keep the baby in spite of the grim circumstances surrounding them.

In Beautiful Youth, Jaime Rosales departs from the distant, observational gaze that characterises some of his earlier works (The Hours of the Day, Bullet in the Head and Solitary Fragments), whilst his use of camera movement is more contained than in his previous film The Dream and the Silence. In fact, a sense of stillness pervades throughout the whole film. We see Natalia in various sitting and lying positions, sometimes lost in her own thoughts. Carlos is framed through his kitchen window, blocked from our sight by various objects. These mechanisms act as symbolic representations of the entrapment, impotence and uncertainty that surround this generation. The film’s title is of course ironic – Rosales’ own private joke on the Spanish crisis’ lost generation or ‘generación perdida’.

Beautiful Youth is one among a series of films which can be encompassed under ‘Spanish crisis cinema’ (cine de la crisis económica), together with Food and Shelter (Juan Miguel del Castillo, 2015), 10,000 kms. (Carlos Marqués, 2014) and Yesterday Never Ends (Isabel Coixet, 2013), among others. What these films share in common is a sense of disillusionment distilled through a spirit of vindication, pretty much in the tradition of Spanish social realism. A slap in the face aimed at seeking reaction.

[1] Carlos E. Cué, ‘Rajoy: “La crisis ya es historia”’, in El País Online, 11 December 2014. Available on https://politica.elpais.com/politica/2014/12/11/actualidad/1418305803_331591.html

[2] ‘Ni-nis’ (acronym): Ni estudian ni trabajan (neither study nor work – NEET).

*Image courtesy of Fresdeval Films. All rights reserved.

 

Raquel Martínez Martín is a Spanish language assistant at Strathclyde University, where she currently pursues her PhD studies. Her research interests are Spanish cinema, cinema of the economic crisis and cinematic movement. She is the main online editor of the Spanish Film Review Club blog.

 

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