Starring: Juana Acosta, Luis Callejo, Carlos D’Urso
Director: Sergio Barrejón
Running Time: 89 mins
Jefe is a Spanish film about a frustrated boss who, in the face of a crumbling marriage and a dying company, strikes up an unlikely relationship with a Colombian woman working the night shift as a cleaning lady.
While it isn’t quite the funniest or most romantic comedy ever made, there is something strangely likable about Jefe throughout, with two main characters that could have easily felt either vulgar or underdeveloped, and actually crafting an engaging and relatable story that deviates a little from the rom-com formula, providing some intrigue for when your more orthodox expectations are let down.
Now, I’m not going to say that Jefe is some brilliantly original piece of work, because it’s not, and as different as it is from the generic stuff you see year in, year out from the rom-com genre, the story is fairly predictable right the way through. However, its unique charm comes in its strong focus on the two main characters, and rather than making this a passionately romantic film, it instead works surprisingly well as an intimate character study.
So, on the one hand, you have Luis Callejo, who plays a frustrated, often vulgar executive who reaches a low point in his life with his marriage and business both on the rocks. Now, it’s very easy to write and play that character in more farcical, shallow fashion, poking fun at his failures despite his arrogance as a supposedly successful executive, but Jefe does well to bring real humanity and emotional depth to the character, furthered by a genuinely likable and funny performance from Callejo throughout.
On the other hand, you have Juana Acosta, who plays the young, single mother all the way from Colombia, working late nights in the office building to earn a living for her young son back home. Again, it’s a character premise that seems ripe for shallow pitying and cheesy drama, but Acosta’s very genuine and endearing performance, along with a screenplay that gives her character a more assured, confident air than what you would expect, makes her an equally engaging and engrossing presence throughout.
And when the two do come together, the chemistry is excellent. Not necessarily in a romantic context, and it’s fair to say that this film’s attempts at strong romance are far from the best, however as confidantes who bring out the best and most honest in each other, making their conversations and fun night-time antics a genuine joy to watch.
Normal rom-coms would stick to a very basic, Pretty Woman-esque formula with a story like this, so I was very glad to see Jefe try something a little bolder, and without a doubt a whole lot more engaging and enjoyable.
Having said all that, the film’s more unique screenplay and character development doesn’t make it an all-round brilliant watch. As I said, it’s far from the most romantic or emotional rom-com ever made, although it does well to fill that gap with a different approach, while it also doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to good comedy.
That’s not to say it’s a boring, lifeless comedy, because there are a good few jokes here and there that might make you chuckle, but far less than what the film is trying to carry out. Its running jokes are either repetitive or totally non-sensical, and some of its one-hit slapstick jokes really don’t do much to make you bellow with laughter, sadly making for a less-than-impressive watch if you’re looking for something on the really funny side.
However, I still had a nice time with Jefe, and while it certainly isn’t a marvel of filmmaking, with average comedy, underwhelming emotional drama and an often predictable plot, its genuine and slightly offbeat approach to the rom-com formual is more than enough to make for an enjoyable watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3 overall.