Year of Release: 2000
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Lluis Homar, Francisco Boira, Francisco Maestre, Javier Camara, Raul Garcia Forneiro, Nacho Perez
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
“La Mala Educación” continues to further explore Pedro Almodóval’s universe, filled with larger than life characters, always bordering the risible, but always heartfelt, emotional, humorous and ultimately rewarding.
After the highly successful films “Todo Sobre Mi Madre” (All About My Mother) and “Hable Con Ella” (Talk to Her), Pedro Almodovar announced that “Bad Education” would focus on his upbringing in a catholic school and mention the sexual scandals in it (pedophilia for that matter). When the film premiered in Cannes’ 2004 opening night, the audience and critics alike were surprised to see that Almodóvar made a beautiful film that didn’t seek shock value, instead went for an extremely intelligent narrative and great performances from his well chosen cast. Unlike his previous films, this was a story populated by men, where the connections between all of them apparently obvious, turned out to be quite surprisingly complex.
The film starts with Enrique, Fele Martinez’s character, a film director having a creativity crisis, that ends up meeting a childhood friend, who gives him a screenplay based on their shared memories of growing up in a catholic school. As Enrique reads the screenplay, his own story unfolds before his and our eyes, all served with plenty of humor (something that the character of Javier Cámara – Paquito, provides in abundance, a bit like Agrado, Antonia San Juan’s character from “Todo sobre mi madre”). Enrique’s friend, excellently played by Gael Garcia Bernal, turns out to be an actor that sees the screenplay as an excellent way to move on to bigger roles and have a career in the movie industry. However, as the screenplay requires a male actor that can also play a feminine character named Zahara, Enrique refuses his claim, after which the movie is put on hold. The story unfolds from there, like a Russian doll, with further connections between characters and what is the film within the film and what is reality. Almodóvar manages to create these balances in the story surprisingly well, never once leaving the audience confused, and that only comes to prove his artistry in the universe that he has created. Some of the audience may like to relate this film to his previous work, namely “La Ley El Deseo” (Law of Desire), where the main character was also a film director, involved with a man that wasn’t what he seemed to be (Antonio Banderas’ character in that film went from slightly homophobic to jealous gay lover). However, Bad Education refines the concepts that Law of Desire placed in motion – the main character, the film director (which ends up being a autobiographical mention to Almodóvar’s own career), navigates through a reality that is at times too seedy and degrading, persevering in his quest for artistic liberty and personal happiness. Where Law of Desire was mostly a journey into one man’s life and the way it connected everyone around him, Bad Education is a journey about a man that through the relationships that he has, learns to reconcile with his past, and set a path for his present and future. Whereas Law of Desire ended in tragedy, Bad Education ends on a more optimistic tone – as the credits roll we learn the fate of the main characters, where we learn that the director continues to work, and that only confirms that Almodóvar’s career has never been better.