David is 20 years old and newly arrived in Barcelona in search of an opportunity. Gràcia, a lonely 60-year-old woman, offers him free room and boarding in exchange for his companionship.
Will they realize that have more in common than meets the eye?
YEAR OF GRACE
YEAR OF GRACE
David is 20 years old and desperately wants to leave his small town and see the world. His best friend Marçal drives him to the local train station after David’s parents forgot to take him. After arriving in Barcelona, he looks upon his new city with amazement. Eager to begin his new life, David settles into the tiny but culturally affluent community of Gràcia.
Gràcia is, as well, the name of a bad-tempered 60-year-old woman, passionately fond of playing cards, that was expecting to live with a girl in exchange for companionship. Aside from being a boy, David does not bode well with Gràcia. The boy lies convincing her that he too has a passion for cards. Against her instinct, she takes him in and lays down her two unbendable rules of the house: “no women, no drugs”. She tries to predict David’s future with her Tarot. To her amazement, the cards reveal a bright future.
YEAR OF GRACE
YEAR TO YEAR, DAY BY DAY.
Almost a year ago a neighbour of mine, who lives in the flat downstairs, a terrible pipe-smoker former politician, told me of an acquaintance of his who lives in a town on the Catalan coast who claimed that he and I had gone to school together. He talked about a religious boarding school in the foothills of the Pyrenees and set our friendship in the boring, dreadful, hateful 1950s when the Franco dictatorship was at its height. Evidently I recognised the place, since it formed for some years the backdrop to my childhood, but not the person of whom he spoke. Quite simply, no matter how hard I tried to remember him, I could not place him at all.
One evening a month later, I was rushing out of my house to buy some books. Early next day I was to catch a trans-Atlantic flight in order to attend an important film festival in North America and I needed something to read to while away the hours on the plane. I was feeling a bit harassed - in a short while I would have to come back to pick up my car, attend a supper, catch a few hours sleep, pack my bags and set off for the airport. At the doorway of my building a man came up to me and introduced himself as the schoolmate my neighbour had told me about. Sure enough he had with him an old photograph where the two of us appeared dressed as choirboys, the most powerfully symbolic evocation of the Catholic education of that time.
I apologised for my poor memory and for my lack of time to stop and talk with him but he offered to accompany me to the bookshop and back to the car park since he had an hour to spare before collecting his son. ‘Ah!’, I said, ‘so you have a son in Barcelona?’ And then he explained that it was his son’s second year at university, and that during the first year, as part of a student programme organised by the City Council, he had shared the flat of a bad-tempered old woman who was an expert card-player. During that year the woman had infected the young boy with her card addiction. The following year the son, fed up of the arguments, had found a flat for himself and was no longer living with her, but very often they met up to play a few hands of cards. Clearly then the woman had passed on to him her passion for cards, her vice, and it was now in his blood.
Immediately I realised that this was a very special situation, unusual, yet very attractive, one that could be worked into a comedy. Yes, I thought that it was a perfect story for a comedy. A 20-year-old boy arrives in the city to study and to make his way in life. He shares a flat with an irascible 70-year-old woman who offers him a place to sleep in exchange for his companionship. Living together is difficult but they have no alternative but to stick it out. Is it the loneliness of those two characters a reflect of our society? Is it that in the end we all need each other? And from here begins the screenplay of Year of Grace (Any de Gràcia).
I like to go back to comedy, a genre in which I have always felt very comfortable. It allows you to talk about serious things, without traumas. At the same time through this genre it is much more easy to catch the complicity of audiences everywhere. I believe that this story, and its setting will allow me to progress along the road which attracted me so much and which is nothing but the opportunity to combine my filmmaking with the thematic implications which emanate from our generational, social and cultural environment. The story portrays a microcosm, which is, at the same time, tragic and comic, intense and light-hearted, transparent and complex, wise and naïve, mature and tender but above all universally moving.
What interests me in Year of Grace (Any de Gràcia) is, on the one hand, the world in construction of young David and, on the other, the established world of Gràcia (Grace), the irascible woman. These are two opposing yet complimentary worlds. However neither one is so pure nor the other so villainous and I believe that the essence of the story lies in the various nuances of the main character’s motives. It appears to me that it is necessary to explain them all together in the simplest manner possible and that the most important part is that I submerge myself in the interior of the two characters where so much truth is contained for dissection.
I find it hard to define my style of filmmaking. Furthermore I do not believe that I am the most suitable person to do so. I always try to find very personal themes which affect me greatly and which adhere to a very personal style. The stories that I choose are neither easy nor conventional, they always contain some implicit risk. These are stories that are based on characters, and this is due to the great pleasure I obtain from working with actors. I am from the school of acting, of characters, of words… I have always liked directors as varied as Mankiewicz, Rohmer, Bergman or Woody Allen... On the other hand, and I think that this is quite clear in my movies, I am extremely attracted by the urban landscape of Barcelona. In this case, it seems to me that there is a very profound relationship between the city and my work…. And much more if the film is located in Gràcia, the now famous young district where I was brought up.
Year of Grace (Any de Gràcia) is not only a story that I enjoy but also one that works well with the type of films that I like to make; based mainly on characters which allow me to work with a strong cast of actors who come mainly from the world of theatre. When directing, mutual understanding with the cast is something that I consider absolutely necessary. I need the existence of a great deal of it. I like to talk about the details, the motives of the characters of the stories, which we are creating together. I firmly believe that their theatrical discipline helps immensely to build the films that I direct.
A film is made up of three elements: the story, the narrative and the cast. If these do not go well together or one of the three fails, the final result will be more than suspect. This project stars with an exceptional Catalan actress, Rosa Maria Sardà, with a strong performance, as well Oriol Vila, a very talented 18 years old actor. Let me tell about Sardà. Her first appearance in a movie was in mine El Vicari d’Olot (1981) and since then, she has worked with the most important Spanish film makers: Berlanga, Gómez Pereira, García Sánchez, Herralde, Colomo, Bajo Ulloa, Almodóvar, Trueba... and in other five of my films: Actresses, Caresses, Beloved/Friend, Anita takes a chance, Barcelona (a map). Her performances are a real master class in each one of them, she can play drama, comedy, she is always the best!
So, after having shown in my previous works my interest in most “transcendent” stories, I heard again the call of comedy. Perhaps because in the experiences of the son of my old mate I found a good story. A good story, yes, the mother of it all, of all films, which allowed me a cast of those that I could trust blindly. Or perhaps I was fascinated by the possibilities of a symbiosis with the type of humor based on these beings, so fragile at the bottom of their hearts, in the daily struggle in a neighborhood as unique as Gràcia. Gràcia and them, Gràcia and us. Gràcia is the landscape of my childhood and adolescence and, although it has changed so much since then, the district still keeps a magical personality, attractive, unique. It is the sum and the pleasure of all this, adding rigor to the narrative concept and also to the value of staging and to the acting. Emotion and tenderness of beings in a unique place and, as in so many of my films movies, searching a bit of accomplishment and communication in the middle of the maelstrom of the times that we live.
Intensely. Year to year, day by day.
YEAR OF GRACE
A production of
ELS FILMS DE LA RAMBLA, S.A.
with the participation of
TELEVISIÓN ESPAÑOLA, S.A.
TELEVISIÓ DE CATALUNYA, S.A.
Director and Producer
EL PETIT DE CAL ERIL
Director of Photography:
First assistant director:
Sound & Editing Studio:
Spain and Andorra Distribution:
ALFA PICTURES S.L.
YEAR OF GRACE
New York (Lincoln Center, US)
Santo Domingo (Dominican Repubic)
Seoul (South Korea)
Cluj Napoca (Romania)
Puerto Rico (US)
Sao Paulo (Brasil)
Mexico D.F. (Mexico)
Chicago Latino Film Festival (US)
Gloria Award Ventura Pons, Sant Jordi Award Ventura Pons (Spain)
Galway Festival, Galway Hooker Award (Ireland)