Film

Only Human (Seres Queridos) (2004)

Daynah Burnett

A kooky romantic comedy directed by a married couple -- Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri -- Only Human is also an increase-the-peace allegory.

Only Human (Seres Queridos)

Director: Teresa Pelegri
Cast: Marián Aguilera, Guillermo Toledo, Maria Botto, Norma Aleandro, Mario Martin
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Display Artist: Dominic Harari, Teresa Pelegri
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2006-06-16 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

Only Human (Seres Queridos) examines conflicted feelings about "home." When Leni Dali (Marián Aguilera) brings her Palestinian fiancé, Rafi (Guillermo Toledo), home to meet her Spanish-Jewish family, the jokes are both obvious and complex, as they Dali family struggles to understand and accept one another.

A kooky romantic comedy directed by a married couple -- Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri -- Only Human is also an increase-the-peace allegory. Leni returns home to Madrid as an adult child, where she feels simultaneously comfortable and guarded. The film's shaky camerawork and overlapping, Altman-esque sound design suggest the way she feels, re-immersed amid her bickering, "zany" family.

The introduction of Rafi, a Muslim, into this mix brings to the surface political and religious tensions, complicating the movie's inclination toward Meet the Parents-type clichés. Luckily, the intensity and sweetness of Leni and Rafi's love (made visible at the outset with a tender quickie in the elevator on the way up to the folks') provide viewers with a point of identification. This helps alleviate the tedium of predictable plot events, as when Rafi gets the stink eye from Leni's mother Gloria (Norma Aleandro), who resents that he doesn't eagerly eat the dinner she's served.

Faced with such opposition, Leni can't seem to decide whether she doesn't care what her parents think of Rafi or if she will lie to avoid their judgments. She ultimately does both (more than once), her dilemma reflecting the sorts of sacrifices we all make to belong somewhere, whether that somewhere is in a family, a marriage, a church, or a homeland.

In the film, these themes are rarely discussed outright, but roil under the surface of conversations and near-confrontations. When Gloria urges her to try on one of her old unflattering dresses, Leni obliges and keeps wearing it until her sister Tania (María Botto), swoops in and insists she remove it; the scene shows the daughters' shared desire not to become their mother. Gloria's own difficulty with changing mores is revealed in an exchange with her six-year-old granddaughter Paula (Alba Molinero), who reprimands her for spraying bugs in the kitchen, because "killing is wrong." "Not always," Grandma explains, as she sweeps away the dead bugs. Coming as it does just before Rafi's arrival, the scene establishes Gloria's sense of territory, and the resistance he'll meet.

Other scenes are similarly allegorical. When grandfather Dudu (Max Berliner), a blind war veteran, comes upon a bandaged duckling now living in the Dalis' bidet, he wields his rifle and genitals with hilarious pride. And then comes the soup. When Rafi aims to make nice by helping Mama Dali defrost a gallon of frozen soup, he inadvertently drops it out of the 10th-floor apartment window, injuring a man on the sidewalk below, a man who may or may not be Papa Dali. The assignation of "home" is both forceful and confused: when mama's homemade soup becomes a lethal weapon, wielding by an interloper, who's to blame for the ensuing umbrage?

As a result of Rafi's soup blunder, the family is divided, though all are determined to protect the home. The ruckus has consequences. A downstairs neighbor (Balbino Acosta), draped in a jacket with an EU flag, confronts the Dalis with complaints of "inappropriate behavior in a civil community." When he waves a chunk of plaster as evidence of their shenanigans, they slam their door in his face. The Dalis' message is clear: this home stuff is hard to negotiate, and outsiders have no business interfering.

When fighting kitchen insects and threatening neighbors, the family finds purpose and unity. Ultimately, however, Only Human is sitcommish and unsatisfying, its humor crass and its resolutions pat.

Only Human - Theatrical Trailer

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image