While it is women who tend to be the primary character in Pedro Almodóvar films – his 2004 drama “La Mala Educación” [Eng. Title: Bad Education] is a notable exception. Hardly any woman feature in this film, and even the one who does – a wardrobe assistant played by Leonor Watling – has barely any lines.
It would be quite difficult to write any meaningful storyline for the film without giving away this intricate plot – so I shall not bother. All I’d say is that it is about two childhood friends-turned lovers whom we’ll follow at various intervals from the 1960’s onwards, and it is an observation of how their ‘education’ unwittingly mark their very different lives, as it also does the brother of one of them.
While the film and to an extent the setting resemble and resonate politically to Louis Malle’s “Au Revoir les Enfants”, this one is altogether dark and unforgiving – a neo-noir that’ll jolt you with unexpected twists and turns after giving you the false impression of a straightforward plot. In fact, false-impressions and false-hope make up a good part of this film within a film. Even if subdued in terms of its flamboyance, there are numerous touches that are unmistakably ‘Almodóvar’ – in the characterisation, screenplay and its glorious irreverence. The film negotiates with ease difficult topics such as paedophilia, rape, and misuse of religious power and trust, and tells us an immensely passionate tale of love, hope, and betrayal – the only difference is that the characters here are gay. And boy what a difference that is, especially if you have Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez thrown into the main character roles. Until this film, I have to admit that my opinion of Bernal as an actor wasn’t too high – I felt he was just another pretty Latin American boy. But he emphatically proves me wrong here – whether it is thanks to Almodóvar I won’t know, but I’m pretty sure Mr. Bernal will forever be grateful for having this film included in his CV. And Fele Martínez who plays the other main character also gives a fine albeit subdued performance. Even though they don’t quite strike up a chemistry as lovers, it’s nevertheless how it should be in the overall scheme of things. As with any successful Almodóvar, the cinematography is vibrant and the soundtrack exquisite. I’d rate it equally alongside his later films such as “Todo sobre mi madre” and “Volver”. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!