This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
“Imagine Almodovar with the intensity down and the detail up”, says the ever optimistic film guide about La Soledad, or Solitary Fragments as it’s been rebadged for us. Sounds promising, no? As it transpires, pretty much the only way you could say it’s like an Almodovar film is that it’s in Spanish.
I don’t often give ‘spoilers’ in reviews, and pretty much only for films that are either impossible to talk about otherwise or are so terrible that I think they’ve done a good enough job of spoiling themselves already. Solitary Fragments represents a rare intersection of both of these, so consider yourself warned.
Adela (Sonia Almarcha) lives separated from her husband Pedro, staying with her thirteen month old child at her fathers. Deciding to start a new life in the city, she moves to Madrid, sharing a flat with Ines. Ines and her sisters have their own set of issues, none of which are of the slightest interest to anyone. Literally nothing of any note whatsoever happens for fifty minutes, then a bus blows up. Adela escapes with mild injuries, but her son is killed.
To give the audience respite from the breakneck speed at which events don’t unfold, another sequence of nothing in the same postcode district as interesting occurs for about an hour, then Ines’s mother dies. There’s a short sequence of nothing much happening, then the film comes to a merciful end.
There are, of course, plenty of films where not much of any real interest happens, indeed less so that the above, which does at least include two momentous events in the character’s lives. They are saved by powerful characterisation and strong direction and made into something touching. The only touching things in Solitary Fragments are likely to be your eyelids.
This is, naturally a deliberate move on director Jamie Rosales’ part. The theory, in an abstract sense at least, is sound. By de-empathising the dramatic events and spending an inordinate amount of detail on the more mundane aspects of domestic life we ought to be able to focus on the characters’ lives. Indeed, it sort of works, but given how dull the characters are I can’t help but question how wise an idea this strategy is.
Running seemingly in direct opposition to this is Rosales’ unusual framing decisions and rather quaint overuse of split screen. If any shot doesn’t consist of a split screen of two exceedingly uninteresting angles of the not-precisely blistering on-screen action that adds precisely nothing to the scene, then it’s being filmed from through an in-shot doorway from another room. The net effect is not to draw us into their lives, but push us away. well, actually the net effect is to make me think that the flat it was filmed in didn’t have enough room to accommodate the camera, lighting rig and sundries at the same time as the cast members, but I’ve always been somewhat cynical that way.
So, bottom line to all of this nonsense? I’ve not been so bored in a cinema since the dreaded Full Frontal. I’ll let any number of shoddier productions away with fairly heinous crimes against cinema as long as they’re in some way, shape or form interest me in some small measure, but I’ve very little tolerance for boredom in cinema. There’s plenty enough of that in day to day life without importing it into cinemas as well. It hardly matters if, as is the case here, the acting is consistently well above par, or if the production values are consistently high and considered (albeit not done in any way I agree with), if the end result could be used to tranquillise a horde of rampaging wildebeest.
If you happen to be at the forefront of cutting edge, experimental veterinary techniques, then I’d certainly recommend that you take a look into Solitary Fragments, although bear in mind that the side effects have not been fully established. However, I’d very much advise against human consumption.