'With or Without Love' (unrated)
A heady mix of comedy, song, dance and sex make this Spanish charmer a winning crowdpleaser.
At the start of Una hora mas en Canarias (which translates as One More Hour in the Canary Islands but is titled With or Without Love for the U.S. market), Claudia (Angie Cepeda) and Pablo (Quim Gutíerrez) haven’t been a couple for a month, but she’s not quite ready to give him up. "I love you, I adore you, and we’ll be together," she tells him in a matter-of-fact, non-stalking way. "You’re like a pimple on my ass! " he shoots back, bewildered at her inability to take no for an answer.
Claudia is a bombshell, the owner of a bustling Madrid wine shop and, oh, married to a wealthy German (Diego Martín). She’s pampered and used to getting what she wants: When she goes out on a shopping/hairstyle spree, a chorus of dancers follows behind, serenading her with choreographed musical numbers until she tires of them and orders them to stop. So even though Pablo claims to want to have nothing to do with her (he has even landed another girlfriend, Elena (Miren Ibarguen), whom he intends to marry), Claudia refuses to believe him. She’s in love with her lover and her husband, and who is to tell this vivacious, relentless woman she can’t have both?
Bustling with screwball humor, rapid-fire dialogue, blooming colors and the occasional musical number, With or Without Love leavens the romantic comedy with a healthy dollop of charming fantasy. This is the third (and best) film directed by Spain’s David Serrano, who previously served as screenwriter on the former Miami Film Festival opener The Other Side of the Bed, which used a similar mix of song and sexiness to charm viewers. With or Without Love, which centers on Claudia’s enlistment of her sister Monica (Juana Acosta) in an elaborate scheme to win back her ex-boyfriend, pushes the whimsy a lot harder: The movie will not please those with low tolerances for the sweet stuff, and some of the funny is admittedly lost in translation (the film will play better to Spanish-speaking viewers).
But only the flintiest Grinch would be able to dismiss the efforts of this hugely magnetic group of actors, who bounce off each other with a sharp comedic timing that lends wit and edge to the broad humor. And the story pushes the romantic stakes to a surprising degree: This may be a lighter-than-air bauble, but Claudia means business, and she’ll have her man by whatever means necessary. With or Without Love will make you long to fall in love - or be thankful you’re not.
Cast: Angie Cepeda, Quim Gutíerrez, Juana Acosta, Miren Ibarguen, Diego Martín.
Director: David Serrano.
Screenwriters: David Serrano, Olga Iglesias.
Producer: Tomás Cimadevilla.
Running time: 96 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Vulgar language, sexual situations, spontaneous musical numbers, adult themes. In Miami-Dade only: Coral Gables Art Cinema.