Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Spain 2008
Directed by
Javier Fesser
143 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4.5 stars


Synopsis: Camino (Nerea Camacho) is an 11-year-old girl, full of life and vitality. Her mother Gloria (Carme Elias) is a religiously devout woman who tends to interpret everything in life in the context of her extreme Catholicism. Just as Camino starts to notice Cuco (Lucas Manzano), a cute boy in the local drama class, she is stricken by a rare cancer which gradually takes over her body. How Camino and those around her, especially parents, sister and priests, (all members of Opus Dei, an inner circle of the Catholic Church) cope with this tragedy is determined by their religious faith.

In making this film, director Javier Fesser was inspired by several true stories he had read of children showing extraordinary courage and grace when faced with imminent death, stories which led him to ask: What does “to offer” suffering mean?. How can one accept that grief and despair are a sign of God’s love?; How can one die contentedly at such a young age?

Such are the serious issues dealt with in this remarkable film, and they are challenging, confusing, and philosophically intriguing all at the one time. Being a person of no religion, I found myself shocked and even horrified at the way the Catholic Church and its adherents, especially Camino’s mother, kept maintaining that God had chosen Camino and her family for suffering as a sign that they were special.

The particular style of Catholicism which this family practices centres around the beliefs of Opus Dei, a extreme right-wing branch of the religion. Camino’s sister, Nuria (Manuela Velles), is a novitiate and lives in a joyless, austere house, where a “gift”, is a handful of pebbles to put in one’s shoes, to intensify onels suffering, all for the glory of God. The priests who visit Camino and urge Gloria to consider allowing the girl to be beatified seem almost devoid of human feeling but rather see this tragedy as ordained by God. The only seemingly sane person amongst them all is Camino’s loving papa, Jose (Mariano Vernuncio), distraught at his little girl’s plight, and the only person who is able to give love, unconditionally and without drawing upon religious dogma.

What really struck me was the fascinating ambiguity of the director’s stance. On the one hand we sense contempt for religious fanaticism and yet there is also some level of admiration for strong faith and the stoicism and philosophical acceptance of suffering it is able to result in. The constantly shifting ground keeps one guessing and the varying styles in which the film plays are equally tantalizing. At times animation is employed (including some scenes from Disney's Cinderella) and there are a couple of fantasy sequences including a guardian angel who Gloria invokes in prayer, but appears to Camino as a nightmare figure. The smaller roles of Camino’s schoolmates bring a much-needed humour and relief to segments of the story while the musical score is (deliberately?) overpowering, adding moments of high melodrama throughout. Then there are the horrifyingly graphic scenes of the operations poor Camino must endure.

Wonderfully ambiguous too is the structural play with meaning – when Camino speaks of loving Jesus we think she is already on her way to sainthood. The film opens on her deathbed, then flashes back five months, in which we discover that all is not what it initially seems. So when the opening scene replays near the end, we now see it in a totally different context as we see Camino's final words which refer to her personal reveries.being interpreted by the adults around her as having religious import

It is the acting that floored me. Elias and Vernuncio are marvellous as the parents but it is the debut performance of the incandescent Camacho that is extraordinary. Although she initially appears to have been chosen for her prettiness with Fesser overdoing her Amélie-like eye-popping stares, as the film progresses screen presence completely draws us into Camino’s tragedy and the senseless curtailing of such a young life full of compassion, joy, fun and promise. It is a film that is sure to stir up emotions and debate.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst