Humanity’s wants, needs, urges, and desires — as conveyed through nuanced performances — propel this Spanish sex comedy.
On their first visit to a sex club, a couple sit down on a step and exchange a perplexed look. Paco (Paco León, We Are Pregnant) has just been to the bathroom. Ana (Ana Katz, El Candidato) has been waiting for him. In their brief time apart, they’ve each had different erotic experiences. The expression in their eyes when they reconvene is one of confusion and surprise; neither expected what just transpired, or knows how to talk about it. And, although they don’t know what the other just did, they’re each well aware from their own preceding few minutes that you can never truly know what even those closest to you have been thinking, feeling, or doing.
Humanity’s wants, needs, urges, and desires — those we become suddenly aware of, or didn’t even know we had, or dare not speak of, but learn to embrace and accept — propel Kiki, Love to Love (Kiki, el amor se hace). Over interspersed vignettes united by a shared Madrid neighbourhood, five couples, groups, and just-met strangers explore their sexuality. Some are aroused by being attacked; others by the sadness of their nearest and dearest; others by the calm that comes when their partner is sleeping.
After a gas station holdup, Natalia (Natalia Molina, The Tunnel) falls into the first category, with her boyfriend Alex (Álex García, The Tip of the Iceberg) — who she hopes will propose — trying to oblige. Following the death of a loved one, Maria Candelaria (Candela Peña, El tiempo de los monstruos) realises that she can orgasm after seeing her husband Antonio (Luis Callejo, The Man with Thousand Faces) cry, which a doctor has suggested might help her efforts to get pregnant. When his temperamental, wheelchair-bound wife Paloma (Mary Paz Sayago, The Extraordinary Tale) accidentally drinks a tea laced with sedatives, plastic surgeon José Luis (Luis Bermejo, Spanish TV’s Love in Difficult Times) warms to her slumbering company. Paco and Ana attend the kind of place they normally wouldn’t even contemplate because their newly single pal Belén (Belén Cuesta, El pregón) works there, and open the door to the exploration needed to revitalise their marriage. Hearing-impaired call centre worker Sandra’s (Alexandra Jiménez, 100 metros) fetish is silk, though she’s forced to help a customer indulge in his own fantasies through a phone sex line.
If Kiki, Love to Love largely sounds familiar, that’s because star and writer/director León, co-scripting with Fernando Pérez (Olmos y Robles), are adapting the 2014 Australian feature The Little Death. In four of the five narratives, the broader details remain the same; however the change in location and culture brings with it a shift in tone and more emphasis on nuance in the performances. Both are welcome: a greater sense of openness arises, as aided by the fact that the characters are given more depth. Indeed, as upbeat and energetic as León and his editor Alberto de Toro (We Need to Talk) ensure the film is, and as warmly shot across its different tales by cinematographer Kiko de la Rica (Ma ma) as well, it’s the cast that help it rise above simply mining between-the-sheets behaviour the entire population mightn’t engage in for comic purposes.
Accordingly, in situations that could’ve easily seen all of the protagonists rendered as one-note figures, conveying naturalism and eschewing the urge to use sexual fetishes as a joke proves a considerable feat. Unlike its predecessor, Kiki, Love to Love never feels like it’s just playing everything for easy laughs — but it can’t quite escape sad stereotypes or troublesome inclusions in its quest to provocatively but thoughtfully explore insecurities and shed inhibitions, as seen in its depictions of a woman yearning for marriage above all else, another using deceit to upset her husband so that she can get pregnant, and a man drugging his wife.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Kiki, Love to Love (Kiki, el amor se hace)
Director: Paco León
Spain, 2016, 102 mins
Spanish Film Festival
Sydney: 18 April – 7 May 2017
Canberra: 19 April – 7 May 2017
Melbourne: 20 April – 7 May 2017
Adelaide: 26 April – 14 May 2017
Brisbane: 27 April – 14 May 2017
Perth: 26 April – 17 May 2017
Hobart: 11 – 17 May 2017