Spanish film “The August Virgin”, which happens to be released in South Korean theaters in this week, simply strolls along with its heroine during her summer stay in Madrid, Spain. While it works to some degree as a likable character study thanks to its good lead actress, the movie often frustrated me during my viewing mainly due to the adamant aimlessness of its rather elusive narrative, and I did not feel much like getting to know its heroine even though I understood and empathized with her disoriented status.
Itsaso Arana, who incidentally wrote the screenplay with director Jonás Trueba, plays a young actress named Eva, and the opening scene shows her looking around one apartment in Madrid where she is going to stay alone during August. Although there are a number of inconveniences in the apartment as admitted to her by its owner, she has no particular problem with the apartment on the whole, and she later has a brief conversation with the owner, who talks a bit about old classic Hollywood films just because he has been quite interested in them.
Anyway, Eva moves to the apartment on the first day of August, and the movie leisurely observes how she goes through next several days. For some personal reason to be revealed later in the story, she simply wants to spend her own private time during her staying period in Madrid, and we see her going around here and there alone in Madrid.
When she drops by a big museum full of many different artifacts, she looks at one of them for a while, and then she unexpected comes across an old male journalist friend of hers, who happens to be there for doing his latest freelance job. After they come out of the museum together, they go to a spot where they can have more conversation between them, and their conversation soon comes to revolve around how he has been doing during last several years – how he has become less idealistic as focusing more on trying to earn his living day by day.
Eva later observes similar things from one of her female friends, who is now living in Madrid as raising her little son. As they casually talk with each other, they are reminded more of how distant they have been to each other for years, but her friend’s life always has to revolve around her young son’s welfare now, and Eva surely understands that without any judgment.
Meanwhile, Eva also has encounters with several strangers who do not mind spending some time with her. At a certain local bar, she happens to meet a British guy who has lived in Spain for several years as working as an English teacher, and she is willing to talk more about herself as he gladly shows more of himself to her. As they talk more with each other, they seem to be more fascinated with each other, but they do not go further than that, and Eva later kindly invites him to a little afternoon picnic for her and her friend.
One of the most amusing moments in the film comes from Eva’s accidental encounter with two women who happen to be sitting right behind her at a movie theater. After hearing these two ladies’ conversation on how to synchronize ovulation cycle to the lunar period, Eva becomes quite interested in that, and she even invites one of them to her staying place. I do not know whether what they do together really works, but it will probably generate some chuckles from you.
What may be the most substantial part in the film comes from some dude Eva happens to spot during one evening. Because he looks rather depressed as he simply remains at a certain spot, Eva comes to care a bit about this guy, and she tries to approach and then talk with him. Although he is not exactly social, the guy responds to her anyway when they encounter each other again, and that is the beginning of their relationship, which eventually culminates to the point where she comes to reveal what she has been concerned about.
I must tell you that this moment of revelation feels rather anti-climactic, and the movie continues to stick to its leisurely aimlessness as before. Its heroine remains vague and ambiguous without letting us know more about her, and then the movie merely walks away from the screen along with her, while we are supposed to fill the gaps and blanks in the story in addition to reflecting a bit on our own life as expected.
While I wish the movie could bring more substance to its story and characters, I still admire Arana’s solid lead performance. While she ably handles a number of key scenes in the film with engaging emotional details, Arana is also supported well by a number of supporting performers who have each own moment to shine without overshadowing her at all, and she and Vito Sanz click well with each other as their characters subtly pull and push each other during several scenes later in the story.
In conclusion, “The August Virgin” is a fairly enjoyable character drama, but it is not interesting enough to engage my mind, which unfortunately happened to be quite distracted for some personal reason. If the movie worked well enough for me, my mind would put aside my private issues for 2 hours at least, but that did not happen at all during my viewing. Therefore, I cannot recommend it for now because of what I felt as watching it, but I also think I should give it another chance someday, and I will be certainly glad if it looks and feels better than before.