“You must come and see it” review: A satisfying Spanish snack
In Spain, there is a tradition called “la hora del vermut” (the vermouth hour) which refers to a short time before lunch when you sip vermouth to prepare your stomach for the meal to come. Spanish director Jonás Truebas’ “You must come and see it”, one of the last joys of the Karlovy Vary competition, barely crosses the hour mark, but it is as sociable and swirling as a draft or ten of sweet fortified wine. In fact, it is an aperitif that proves to be so satisfying, so simple and sunny and sage, that you may find yourself filling up on its drowsy scholarly, strangely nourishing pleasures and forgetting lunch altogether.
Even the opening titles are a sparkling, witty delight, appearing on screen in time with a dirty uptempo piano piece which, as we learn from the applause that occurs just when Trueba’s author-director credit is shown, is performed live by pianist Chano Domínguez in a jazz club in Madrid. Paradoxically, the tempo slows down, as Trueba lets Dominguez’s next piece – a peri-pandemic composition titled “Limbo” – play out in its entirety, while in turn lingering in the faces of our four characters.
We do not know their names or their relationship yet. But these calm portraits, shot in Santiago Racaj’s appealingly warm-toned Academy-ratio images, give us surprisingly intimate access to them as individuals: It’s funny how much you can tell about a person by watching them look. It is Elena (Itsaso Arana), delighted and attentive, whose glasses give her a vaguely owl-like, intellectual air. There is her crumpled partner Daniel (Vitor Sanz), a little less transported, a little more restless. It is dark-eyed Guillermo (Francesco Carril), who nods gently to one of the composition’s hidden rhythms. And it is his beautiful partner Susana (Irene Escolar), who enjoys the show, but also, it seems, the company, who looks at the others and smiles.
Just when you think the whole movie is set to be some kind of experimental essay about spectators, the concert ends and the four return to their table. During their beautifully naturalistic, well-observed conversation (Trueba’s script was completed with his four actors), we understand that the two couples go far back, even though they had recently seen less of each other. In part, it’s because of the pandemic. This is partly because Guillermo and Susana – who reveal that she is pregnant – have recently moved out of Madrid to a nearby village; their new house is “what” they claim their old friends “must come and see.”
The conversation is warm, but a little cautious. There remains a small gravel in the gears of their social interaction, which must be immediately recognizable to anyone who has felt rusty by restoring contact with close friends after a long separation. Later, back in their apartment, while reading in bed as if they were in an early Woody Allen movie, Elena and Daniel discuss the pros and cons of visiting. Daniel, an artist who tends to tingle restlessly in office, sourly suggests that the insistence on Guillermo and Susana’s invitation is in fact a coded rebuke that they have not made the same life stage choices they have.
Six months later, however, they are on the train from Madrid one midsummer afternoon, while Bill Callahan’s fantastic “Let’s move to the country” plays. Later, Daniel will hum a few beats of the song: The film is full of these little crosses and curls, as fragments of prose poetry and literature and music slide from the soundtrack into the characters’ mouths and back again. It is as if the film is a collective unconscious where ideas and themes tumble around and bubble to the surface via various ways of expression.
More straight forward, the rest of the story is simply that visit. There is a house tour, an al fresco dinner, a game of double ping pong and a walk in the overgrown meadow nearby. Elena gets a thistle stuck in the sandal.
It’s about as loud as the drama gets. “You Have to Come and See It” is less about plot than mood, and despite its light-hearted intellectualism, less about ideas than fleeting, vanishing experience: a kind of contemporary nostalgia. When Elena insists on reading the last page of the book she is passionate about (“You Must Change Your Life” by Peter Sloterdijk), it does not feel as if we are expected to understand its political and philosophical complexity. Rather, the sequence exists for how the other three react: their sideways glances, their repressed fun, their loving “it is so Elena “tolerance.
As with any film with white, heterosexual, bourgeois Europeans strolling in the sun and talking without embarrassment about art and ethics and the like, the spirit of Eric Rohmer hovers benignly. But it ends with a benevolent flourishing: the image changes to grainy 8 mm to reveal Trueba himself who gives direction, the sound guy who dangles with his boom microphone, the actors – who have not seemed to perform at all – break character between the shots. It’s as if to say, look, this wonderful, gossamer afternoon we’ve spent together has felt real in a way that only something as unreal as a movie can feel. And if that does not make much sense, well, you have to come and see it.