Vier Wände für Zwei / El inconveniente

Director: Bernabé Rico (Spain). Year of Release: 2020

Sara is a Powerfrau, who’s a boss at an Insurance Company. She is quick to sack her employees, reminding them that they’re not working for an NGO. She also, as someone comments, has a stick up her arse, and hasn’t really worked out how to enjoy herself. Sara is married, but just in case, she thinks it’s a good time to buy a house just in case everything goes wrong. Also she’s the sort of person who can afford to just buy a spare house.

Not any house, mind. She’s found a particular bargain. A 100m2 house in Seville, which is one of those film houses, which occupies way more than 100m2 and makes you wonder just how much film people know about how ordinary people live. It’s half the price of any similar house in the district, because it comes with one Inconvenience (their words, not mine). A woman who’s been living there, and will continue living there until she dies.

Sara calculates that this won’t be long. Lola has had three heart by-passes already, and she’s pushing 75. Surely Lola can put up with a little extra in her second house for a short period of time. The trouble is, though, that Lola is spontaneous, and funny. She even likes drinking alcohol and smoking drugs. She is everything that Sara isn’t. Can you see where we’re going here? Will Sara and Lola learn from each other and break through their respective loneliness? What do you think?

The differences between the two women are accentuated for comic effect. Maybe there should be some quotation marks around that “comic effect”. You feel that everything is being exaggerated to make a point. Sara is young, Lola old. Sara up tight, Lola quite at ease with herself. But maybe there is something that draws them together? Maybe being a woman living on your own is just a bit weird and something that you should apologise for?

Lola quotes John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”. Sara starts to think that maybe she should be doing something. To offset her guilt, she insists that Lola chases up her ex-husband, even though they parted company 30 years ago under a cloud of hostility. The reunification makes two things obvious – Lola is still very much in love with her ex, and it was, and remains, impossible for the two to live together.

There is a great scene towards the end which has little directly to do with the rest of the film. A man sits on stage in the back room of a bar playing a guitar. He sings, his voice full of hope: “Let me live. Free as the wind” (or somesuch. I forget the exact words). He finishes the song and drains the rest of his drink. He starts mopping the floor. The room is empty, apart from him, his guitar, and his mop.

We need more of this sort of cynicism in the film. It is not that Vier Wände für Zwei is without tragedy – we have a couple of hospital visits, and the unhappy lives of the main characters show less success than unfulfilled potential. And yet, the message seems to be Carpe Diem, look for the hero inside yourself and other irritating songs. The main message is that you are to blame for your own problems, and all you need to survive is a positive attitude.

There is a lot in the film to frustrate – it is utterly conservative and doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know. But at the same time, it is congenial and well-acted. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it, but at the same time, I’ve seen much more annoying films (much more), and at an hour and a half, it says what it has to say, then leaves without outstaying its welcome. It’s perfectly fine.

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