With a sizeable spate of accolades to his name for his debut effort El Bola and sophomore feature November (including two Goyas, a European Film and Cinema Writers Circle award, and recognition from the Ale Kino!, Avignon, Bogota, Castellinaria, San Sebastián and Toronto film festivals), and acclaim following his third movie Blackwhite, Spanish actor turned writer and director Achero Mañas (seen on screen in everything from 1492 to Crímenes ejemplares de Max Aub) returns with his fourth full-length film Anything You Want (Todo lo que tú quieras). Exploring life after loss, the latest offering from the son of scribe and actor Alfredo Mañas (Fortunata And Jacinta) and actress Paloma Lorena (a frequent performer in his films) is a delicate and intricate drama filled with emotion and insights as it explores the intersection of relationships, responsibility and the role of children in helping their parents cope with the hardships of life.
Ignorant of adversity amidst their domestic bliss, mild-mannered lawyer Leo (Juan Diego Botto, The Dancer Upstairs), hi keeping her illness hidden for some time, Leo is left with sole responsibility for Dafne’s care. Struggling to come to terms with his own grief, let alone guide his inquisitive daughter through the tragedy, he avoids rather than confronts the reality of the situation. Yet, as time passes and their paths begin to intersect with others outside their cocoon of mourning, their outlook adapts slowly but surely. Looking beyond the accepted notion of normality to adjust to their predicament, the pair embrace any and every way, no matter how unconventional, to move forward.
The Spanish are renowned for their mastery of melodrama, with Anything You Want fitting within the expected mould. However, as the film’s title intimates, underneath the overt sentimentality lies an offbeat sense of survival that permeates the protagonists in the most unlikely of ways, stemming from Dafne’s innocent insistence that her father procure her a replacement matriarch, and Leo’s unwavering desire to conform to his daughter’s demands. Indeed, in a narrative reminiscent of the oeuvre of Pedro Almodovar, Mañas’ feature plays with gender as a fluid yet formative construct. Daring to subvert societal expectations within the confines of sorrow and sacrifice, the film provides a sweetly surreal insight into the alternative aftermath of emotional affliction. Buoyed by heartfelt performances from Botto and Fernández, the resulting effort is illuminating as well as engaging in its difference. Demonstrating brightness amidst the bleakest of scenarios, Anything You Want is quirky and quietly compelling.
Anything You Want is currently screening in Australia as part of the Spanish Film Festival.