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The Berlinale Blog: A brave face

When will the crisis be over? Mark Wilshin saw Yesterday Never Ends, Isabel Coixet’s graveside chamber play, which treads a fine line between exhuming parental grief and its metaphor for Spain’s economic woes.

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In the words of the unnamed ex-husband who meets his ex-wife at his son’s graveside, Isabel Coixet’s “Yesterday Never Ends” is the story of a man and a woman who lost a son, then themselves and then each other.

And it’s also the story of a country that lost itself to the financial crisis. But to reveal its plot further would be to undermine its slowly emerging narrative. Suffice to say that in 2017 Spain has been swallowed by unemployment, homelessness and financial terrorism, and for the first time in 10 years a divorced couple meet, apparently to sign the papers to allow their son to be exhumed and relocated. It is however a ruse, and both parties have their own motives for this long overdue reunion, the woman seeking salvation from mourning while the man hopes to gather some material for his first novel.

Passing through bitter recrimination, anger and grief, their conversations take place against a backdrop of bare concrete walls within the Igualada cemetery. It’s a theatrical and stylized stage, a chamber play of a relationship in tatters laid bare. But intercut with monochrome thoughts and yellowed memories of a happier time, their relationship is also a metaphor for Spain’s financial crisis – catastrophe followed by conflict and chaos.

It’s hard to compare Germany’s refusal to bail out ailing Spain with a fatal case of meningitis even when hospital cutbacks mean a waiting time of five hours. And the Catalan director’s film is almost patronizing in its neat division of heated female emotion and cool male reason.

Superb performances by Candela Peña and Javier Cámara are sometimes undermined by uncurbed camera angles and mood-breaking asides. But nevertheless Yesterday Never Ends is a moving glimpse into an unimaginable future, an endless present and an irretrievable past.