Starring: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem
Director: Woody Allen
Running Time: 98 mins
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is an American film about two American women who travel to Barcelona to spend two months in summer. Although they may be friends, they share completely different perspectives on love and relationships, something that becomes particularly complicated when they both fall for the same man whilst in Spain.
This may not be your typical quirky Woody Allen affair, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining and engaging throughout. With a powerfully romantic atmosphere, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is first and foremost a story about love, featuring some excellent writing and directing that helps to make that clear throughout. Moments of comedy shine through, and provide some solid entertainment from time to time, but it’s this film’s romantic drama that’s by far its most impressive feature.
That’s not to say that this film is heavy-going in any way. There’s nothing there designed to make you laugh-out-loud, but this is nowhere near the level of a modern Woody Allen drama like Blue Jasmine. There are moments of intense drama, but the overriding atmosphere of this film is one of loose holiday romances, embracing a ‘European’ approach to relationships and letting it all go.
From the moment the film starts, it’s full of sensual Spanish music, whilst the cinematography paints the picture of this film in very dark, full reds and bright whites, giving it the visual impression of a classic romantic painting, portraying the characters’ various relationships and loves in Spain in a positive light, centring principally on shaking off all the inhibitions that plague their lives back in America, which is actually a lot of fun to watch.
Another big plus from this film is its script. We all know Woody Allen is a master screenwriter, and this is a prime example of that. The film’s strongly romantic vibes shine through in the almost excessively poetic dialogue of some of its characters, whilst we also get a plot that gives more than a simple linear romance, providing some properly intriguing and unexpected bumps along the way.
The performances here aren’t half-bad either. Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem are all great in their respective leading roles, pulling off convincing performances throughout, albeit not quite with the same passion as Allen’s directing would necessarily warrant, which was a bit of a shame to see.
The exception to that is Penélope Cruz. Although only a supporting player for half of the movie, her performance makes a big mark on this entire film, and injects a completely different energy to the entire affair. Yes, the romance is still at the forefront, but Cruz’s almost terrifying performance gives the film a whole new level of drama, heightening the intrigue far more, particularly in the film’s second act.
Overall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a very good film. At times loose and light in its portrayal of a Spanish holiday letting it all go, at others a strongly romantic and pulsating drama with fantastic intrigue, this is a great watch, particularly thanks to great directing and writing from Woody Allen, and some strong performances too, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.