Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/Spain/Germany, 1996. Alta Films, Channel Four Films, Degeto Film, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Institute of Culture, Parallax Pictures, Road Movies Dritte Produktionen, Television Espanola, The Glasgow Film Fund, Tornasol Films. Screenplay by Paul Laverty. Cinematography by Barry Ackroyd. Produced by Sally Hibbin. Music by George Fenton. Production Design by Martin Johnson. Costume Design by Daphne Dare, Lena Mossum. Film Editing by Jonathan Morris.
A Glasgow bus driver (Robert Carlyle) intercedes when a woman with poor English skills named Carla (Oyanka Cabezas) is accosted by a fare inspector for not buying a ticket, getting himself into hot water with his superiors for pleading for mercy on her behalf. Fascinated by the woman, he woos her into friendship and eventually love, discovering that she has moved to Scotland from Nicaragua to get away from the anti-Sandinista revolution, separated from her family and unaware of the fate of her former lover. Carlyle falls so hard for Cabezas that he buys two plane tickets and takes her home, even though the search for her boyfriend could separate them forever. What they find is a country still in gross upheaval, with a hardened Scott Glenn as a former CIA operative turned anti-rebel peacekeeper insisting that they never should have come back. Ken Loach directs a screenplay by Paul Laverty for the first time in this political romance, a collaborative relationship that got it right the first time and has yielded many marvelous projects since. The storytelling here is slightly uneven, there’s more grit and personality to be found in the Glasgow sequences, and then when the characters arrive in Central America they become more important as symbols of humanitarian pleading than individuals. Much of that is likely the result of the screenplay being inspired by Laverty’s own experiences working in Nicaragua before producing this screenplay; it’s not just his first with Loach, it’s his first produced screenplay ever, and investigating corruption in Latin America is something he captured even better a number of years later with Even The Rain. Carlyle and newcomer Cabezas have great chemistry between them and are both so sympathetic that you will have no trouble seeing their journey through to its satisfying end.