Two children, Ignacio and Enrique, know love, the movies and fear in a religious school at the beginning of the 1960s. Father Manolo, director of the school and its professor of literature, is witness to and part of these discoveries. The three are followed through the next few decades, their reunion marking life and death.
This film treads the fine line between providing an entertaining and sexy piece of cinema with the identification of the serious issues of sexual abuse committed if not always by the clergy, then certainly under their auspices, in Franco's Spain. The story centres around aspiring actor "Angel" (Gael Garciá Bernal) who turns up, unannounced, at the door of his former schoolfriend. This man "Enrique" (Fele Martinez) has gone on to become a successful film director and, perhaps optimistically, "Angel" hopes that the unfinished manuscript he has brought might turn out to be his ticket to success. It transpires that these men have not seen each other since school (some 16 years earlier) and that this document is semi-autobiographical - it takes both back to their childhood where, under the supervision of "Fr. Manolo" (Daniel Giménez Cacho) they attended a catholic school where they had sexual encounters with each other and with others with varying degrees willingness. The story is dark, certainly, but here is plenty of humour and shagging as the story unfolds. We are deliberately left to judge the extent to which "Angel" is being truthful, fanciful or just plain enthusiastic, and we are also offered a fairly unique take on how vengeance might be applied. The narrative is complex, the timelines and characters shift making it quite a thought provoking film to both watch and begin to understand. Well worth it, though!