The Sea | Chicago Reader

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107 minutes · 2000

Drama, Period drama
Agusti Villaronga (In a Glass Cage) directed this handsomely photographed Spanish period drama (2000) about three young people at a tuberculosis sanatorium who, during their childhood in Majorca, had witnessed the revenge killing of a classmate. That event, tied to Franco's persecution of dissidents during World War II, has been pivotal in shaping the youngsters' psyches and lives. Francisca is now a nun, Manuel is deep into Catholic guilt, and Ramallo has turned to hustling. The film plays with the notion of TB as the plague of the 40s but doesn't get beyond weepy scenes of emaciated boys coughing and dying. Its real focus is on the self-loathing homosexual attraction—suggestive of Genet and Mishima—between the ascetic Manuel and the rowdy Ramallo. Villaronga seems to be after a parable about young people's terror of death and the church's failure to offer them spiritual shelter, but he ends up with a sensationalistic melodrama about the torments of sexual yearning.

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