RED SQUIRREL, THE (LA ARDILLA ROJA)
(director/writer: Julio Medem; cinematographer: Gonzalo Berridi; editor: Maria Helena Sainz de Rozas; cast: Emma Suarez (Lisa Fuentes), Nancho Novo (Jay), Carmelo Gomez (Felix), Maria Barranco (Carmen), Elena Irureta (Begona), Chete Lera (Salvador Fuentes), Gustavo Salmeron (Luis Alfonso), Karra Elejalde (Anton); Runtime: 110; Sogepaq / Sogetel; 1993-Spain)
“The storyline is awkward, melodramatic and incredulous.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A most improbable but engaging romantic mystery that holds our attention and teases our sensibilities. The first word out of Jay’s (Novo) mouth is shit as he stands on the boardwalk at San Sebastian ready to commit suicide, after being jilted by his girlfriend and unable to work for the last 4-years as a rock singer with his group called Flies. Suddenly a motorcycle crashes over the boardwalk railing onto the night’s deserted beach, and Jay forgoes his immediate suicide plans to rush to the aid of the helmeted victim. To his surprise, he discovers that it’s a beautiful girl and upon questioning her discovers she is suffering from amnesia and has no ID. On an impulse, when the ambulance arrives, he tells the driver that her name is Lisa and that he is her boyfriend and proceeds to give her a big kiss. At the hospital he supplies the night receptionist, Salvador Fuentes (Lera), information that he makes up about her, giving her the surname Fuentes that he takes from the receptionist’s name-tag. Later on, he will discover that the receptionist is her brother.
Lisa sticks to her amnesia story and Jay sticks to his pursuit of her, feeling rejuvenated by her presence in his life. When Jay is about to be questioned in detail about her by the hospital staff, he sneaks her out of the hospital and they take off together heading for a camping resort called “The Red Squirrel.”
At the resort, they meet a meddlesome family who help them pitch a tent and invite them over for dinner. There are signs that what is happening to the two lovers is getting to be heavy, and what seems to be is not exactly what is. But what is definitely happening is that they are making passionate love, and Jay is constantly inventing things he says Lisa did before she lost her memory. But, she doesn’t passively accept what he tells her.
When a radio message comes over the air saying that a man named Felix (Carmelo) is looking for his mentally deranged wife who ran away, the description is exactly like that of Lisa even though the name given for her is Sofia Fuentes. Well the game is up for the two lost souls, as the people in the campsite are not fooled and Felix is tipped off where to find her. When Felix arrives at the resort to reclaim Sofia, a battle begins between her new boyfriend and her enraged husband.
The storyline is awkward, melodramatic and incredulous; and, the ending is somewhat ludicrous and overplayed. But what remains interesting is the psychological games played out by the couple. They explore their identities and sexual cravings amidst their death wishes trying to find out who they are and what love means, despite their insecurities and the lies they tell each other. The Basque director/writer of this romantic mystery film, Julio Medem, has created a story with enough twists to keep you guessing at what will happen next, but the film left me with a bitter-sweet reaction to the romance.
REVIEWED ON 8/24/99 GRADE: C