Memories of My Father (4 stars)

Memories of My Father

Gorgeous and stirring domestic drama from Fernando Trueba, focusing on a real-life Columbian hero

The Spanish director of the Oscar-nominated Chico & Rita and Oscar-winner Belle Epoque, Fernando Trueba, is behind this Colombia-set, Goya-winning drama. Based on the true story of trailblazing doctor and university professor Héctor Abad Gómez, it shows him heroically campaigning for better healthcare for the people of Medellín and is seen through the eyes of his first young and adoring, and later older and more forlorn, son.

Based on the memoir by Gómez's son, Héctor Abad Faciolince, with a script penned by the director's brother David, the film casts Spanish star Javier Cámara (Talk to Her) as its pioneering protagonist, with Nicolás Reyes Cano and Juan Pablo Urrego playing his son as a child and young adult respectively. There's a honeyed glow to the early 70s-set scenes, as we see the chaos, squabbling and bounteous affection that characterises this family's life. One of six children yet the only boy, Quiquín (or Héctor Junior) has a special place in his father's heart and the feeling is clearly mutual. Having such a rebellious role model offers Quiquín welcome respite from the religious teachings of the family's live-in nanny Sister Josefa (Luz Myriam Guarín), while his father also has a tendency to spoil him rotten. There are plenty of highs and lows within these childhood recollections, but only the scenes set in the 80s take on a more sombre, monochromatic hue.

Cámara brings his usual class to the role of Héctor Senior, who is, somewhat gloriously, an anti-establishment spirit in a professional man's body, to the endless consternation of his superiors, and there's a nice little cameo from Love & Friendship director Whit Stillman as a colleague of Héctor's. Trueba achieves a satisfying contrast between the scenes depicting a kid in thrall to his father, and the young man who can more clearly see his flaws and is a little resentful of living in his shadow. Although Colombia's political turmoil and societal neglect is an important part of the film's fabric, it views things predominantly through a prism of domesticity, foregrounding Héctor as a parent and ensuring this remains a very personal take on wider events. The result is a beautiful story about family and fighting for what you believe in, no matter what the cost.

Available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from Fri 26 Mar.

Memories of My Father

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • Colombia
  • 2h 16min
  • Directed by: Fernando Trueba
  • Written by: Héctor Abad Faciolince, David Trueba
  • Cast: Javier Cámara, Daniela Abad, Aida Morales, Patricia Tamayo, Juan Pablo Urrego

An exploration of the writer's relationship with his father- a college professor who promoted tolerance, advocated for human rights and enjoyed the family life around him.