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Film Review: 'A Slice of Life in Barcelona'

A web of toxic relationships leads to heartache and self-destruction in this gritty slice-of-life drama.

By Trevor WellsPublished 4 years ago 4 min read

On the rougher side of the beautiful city of Barcelona, a plethora of relationships exist—and all have their share of troubles. Christina and Molly (Jessica Hernández and Madalina Pirvan) are in love, but Christina finds her relationship in trouble after having a drunken tryst with the chronically irresponsible Robert (Oscar Gomez). Paula and Anna (Anneke Necro and Irina Fernandez) are serial thieves and lovers dealing with the fact that Paula is stuck living with her homophobic brother Ramsey (Tony Corvillo) and his meek girlfriend Faye (Beatrice Vilaseca).

Christina's infidelity triggers a domino effect that touches all three of these dysfunctional couples' lives, bringing already strained lives to the point of breaking. As things intensify, one thing becomes clear: no one is getting out of this toxic web unscathed.

As I was watching A Slice of Life in Barcelona, I found myself thinking back to another indie film that recently fell into my lap: Ekaj, another slice-of-life drama taking place in a rough neighborhood. Both films are similar in tone and setting, though a major difference is that A Slice of Life in Barcelona follows numerous characters rather than just one. While this allows the film to have a more story-driven nature than Ekaj, and thus make it more up my own personal alley when it comes to a viewing experience, it also makes for a far more dour story with more people involved in the tangled mess weaved by the characters. Fair warning, Slice of Life is not the sort of film you want to watch if you're looking for a pick-me-up kind of film.

Depressing tone aside, Slice of Life does a mixed job in crafting its story. The deliberate pace is good in some places, allowing for the characters and their relationship to one another to be fleshed out and given emotional weight. But in other places, the pacing feels off, with several scenes feeling like unnecessary padding that add nothing to the movie. Had this padding been removed, Slice of Life could've been spared feeling like it has more time in it than the plot could cover. As a whole, though, Slice of Life's strong story rife for drama and tension make the weaker moments worth enduring.

The story is bolstered by a strong cast that does the material justice, with everyone giving a strong performance and (in some cases) bringing emotional complexity to their roles. A standout is Jessica Hernández as Christina, who can be argued as the film's main protagonist due to how centered the story's events are on her and her actions. In Hernández's hands, Christina becomes a character you sympathize with, even as her actions become less than likable. Hernández excels at portraying Christina as a genuinely kind-hearted woman whose mistake threatens to destroy her life, and plays the transition with poignant emotion.

Anneke Necro is similarly strong as kleptomaniac Paula, who joins Christina in her struggles to being trapped in a toxic relationship, though the film's events leave Paula less than sympathetic. Even with Paula's backstory of coming from an abusive home and being stuck living with an alcoholic jerk of a brother, Paula's criminal escapades with Anna (which include robbing the elderly) and her later resistance to making an effort to make things better for herself leave her squarely on the side of unsympathetic--which I fear was not the script's intention.

Oscar Gomez adds a sprinkling of depth to the otherwise sleazy and habitually ungrateful and self-centered Robert, and Tony Corvillo brings a lot of energy into playing the over-the-top homophobic and abusive Ramsey, with Corvillo clearly having fun in the final act as Ramsey's behavior takes a turn for the psychotic. Beatrice Vilaseca also brings a sympathetic edge to Ramsey's henpecked girlfriend Faye, making her ultimate fate all the more disturbing.

With all the darkness of Slice of Life's plot, however, the film makes the wise decision to throw a few bright spots into the mix to give the audience a reprise. Christina's young nephew Sebi (played by Arturo Estero Jalao) is a breath of fresh air with his youthful boundless energy and blissful ignorance of the darkness surrounding him, Robert's frustrated mother provides a lot of cathartic tell-offs to her perpetually freeloading son, and Christina's supportive mother is a much needed voice of reason to the chaotic events of her daughter's life. While Slice of Life remains a bleak film, these moments provide a reminder that there's still light present within the tangled web of heartache and pain—even if the characters can't see it.

A Slice of Life in Barcelona has about as many flaws to it as there are strengths. The plot turns into a slog in places, there are a few weak spots to the film's sense of character development, and the ending feels incredibly rushed and a bit unsatisfying despite the emotional impact it captures. But to counteract these faults, Slice of Life brings a strong and emotional story, a solid cast, and refreshingly upbeat characters to bring some light to the prevailing sense of misery present within this gritty drama. While not perfect, Slice of Life is an emotional and dramatic tale set in the darker half of a beautiful city, and is a film that's sure to be enjoyed by those ready to take on a less-than-optimistic film.

Score: 6 out of 10 stuffed Garfields.


About the Creator

Trevor Wells

Aspiring writer and film lover: Lifetime, Hallmark, indie, and anything else that strikes my interest. He/him.

Link to Facebook

Twitter: @TrevorWells98

Instagram: @trevorwells_16

Email: [email protected]

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