Movie sets film-making process in background of political strife

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“Even the Rain” was lucky enough to be selected as Spain’s submission for this year’s Academy Awards. Although it wasn’t nominated, the film still proves to be worthy of consideration, a smart film about filmmaking that unfortunately goes a bit overboard with its heavy-handed social commentary.

Luis Tosar stars as Costa, the producer for a mini-budget historical epic directed by the young Sebastián (Gael García Bernal). Thanks to Costa, the film’s production takes place in South America’s poorest country, where unwitting locals will work long hours for minimal pay. However, the country is also swept up in political turmoil, something a few crew members unwittingly get involved in when the film’s actors fall into trouble.

For everything that works about “Even the Rain,” there’s an equal detractor. For example, the film is packed with strong performances. Juan Carlos Aduviri is a quietly imposing force of nature as Daniel, a local who happens to be leading anti-government protest rallies on his days off. Tosar is similarly strong as Costa, who finds himself empathizing with the natives far more than he expected to, and Bernal is entertaining to watch as his film slowly falls apart.

However, many of the film’s characters are loosely drawn and defined. Far too many of the film’s supporting characters in particular seem to exist only to voice a unique opinion about the political turmoil plaguing the country’s inhabitants, functioning as little more than voice boxes for the writer’s thoughts on civil disobedience and government protest.

Even more irritating than the weak characters is the social commentary. While it starts off as a smart subtext in a parallel between the film-within-the-film about Christopher Columbus’ exploitation of the Native Americans and the government’s exploitation of the poverty-stricken locals, the film soon surrenders entirely to trying to make an oblique political point, losing what made it interesting in favor of shouting its political opinions from a soapbox.

Thankfully, many of the film’s early sequences, which mostly focus on the difficulties of filmmaking, are fascinating and illuminating, and the climax in which Costa is forced to drive through a war zone in order to rescue a wounded child, is legitimately harrowing and suspenseful.

It’s easy to see why “Even the Rain” didn’t make it into this year’s Oscars. Many of the other Best Foreign Language Film nominees dealt with similar material and often did it better. Nonetheless, when it’s not bogged down in social commentary, “Even the Rain” is an interesting look at the filmmaking process and rebellion against an oppressive government.