Albaladejo, Miguel

Albaladejo, Miguel
(1966- )
   Writer-director Miguel Albaladejo specializes in large canvasses with several finely characterized parts played by well-cast ensembles, and an effective mixture of comedy and melodrama. Warmth and generosity are important aspects of the overall effect of his films. Good laughs, sharp wit, and a very original outlook are achieved in collaboration with strong scriptwriters like Elvira Lindo, who co-wrote the director's first four films. Albaladejo started his feature film career with a touching net-work comedy set on the first day of the new millennium, La primera noche de mi vida (The First Night of My Life, 1998), which included various story lines concerning a disparate group of characters involved in the birth of a baby.
   His next film, Manolito Gafotas (Manolito Four-Eyes, 1999), was based on Lindo's popular series of novels and set in a working-class suburb, a background that became a speciality of sorts for the director. Albaladejo's skills at bringing out engaging performances from a young cast are prominent here, as well as a touch of popular Spanish costumbrismo and an approach to comedy that recalls Pedro Almodovar in freshness and rhythms. Ataque Verbal (Verbal Attack, 1999) was little more than a witty collection of sketches featuring intelligent repartee (by Lindo), but El cielo abierto (Ten Days Without Love, 2001) remains his best film and one of the most polished romantic comedies in recent Spanish cinema. Mariola Fuentes is note-perfect as the working-class girl who starts a relationship with a troubled doctor (Sergi López) who has just been dumped by his wife. The film features a gallery of engaging supporting characters (including the doctor's assistant, played by Albaladejo's sister Geli and the young actors playing Fuentes' siblings) and a wealth of vivid situations inspired by a positive working-class outlook.
   Rencor (Rancour, 2002), which Albaladejo wrote on his own, had good performances (in particular an intense lead by singer-actress Lolita) and a return to old themes, but the melodramatic plot did not succeed in moving audiences. Even worse, Albaladejo seemed to have lost his former generosity toward his characters. Failing to find the balance between tears and laughter flawed the otherwise intriguing Cachorro (Bear Cub, 2004), a film about a seven-year-old boy brought up by his uncle's group of gay friends when his mother is imprisoned in India after attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country. The film's best moments come early, when we are shown the kid's curiosity for his uncle's lifestyle. But when Albaladejo decides to pursue the story of the kid's grandmother claiming her rights over the boy, it makes for uncomfortable viewing, as the director attempts not to follow the narrative to its logical conclusion and make it into a "gay" film; it is easy to understand his sympathy toward his characters, but hard to know where the story is leading. The film had a muted response and did poorly at the box office, although it has gained interest from gay audiences after its DVD release. In 2006, Volando voy (I'm Flying / My Quick Way Out) again had a working-class boy as a protagonist and provided more evidence of Albaladejo's skills as an actors' director. It tells the story of a young delinquent who is already running from the police at the age of 10.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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