Directed by Miguel Albaladejo
Written by Miguel Albaladejo and Salvador García Ruiz
Premiered February 8, 2004, at the Berlin International Film Festival
Comedy/Drama (foreign: Spain)
Review by Stephen O. Murray
Janurary 1, 2006.
The Spanish title Cachorro (2004, written and directed by Miguel Albaladejo [El cielo abierto]) means something like hunk-fancier or -chaser, referring, I think, to Pedro (José Luis García Pérez). The English title, “Bear Cub,” seems to me to refer to Pedro’s nephew who is left in his care, Bernardo [David Castillo] and to be a misunderstanding of the term in the gay lexicon. Bernardo’s flaky mother [Elvira Lindo] wants her son to be gay like her brother. Pedro wants Bernardo to be whatever he wants to be, not to be a clone of himself (or to fit Bernardo’s paternal grandmother’s [Empar Ferrer] notions of what he should be, either).
To some extent, the movie fits the Three Godfathers/Three Men and a Baby/Kolya/My Three Sons/Raising Helen mold with the child here having been raised for his first nine years by a woman akin to “Auntie Mame.” Pedro is a large and hairy bear with a large circle of bear friends in Madrid. They look askance at the “fruity” clothes Violeta has dressed Bernardo in and take an avuncular interest in the boy, who is relaxed in a sort-of family of gay bears. (Pedro does not want to couple, though he wants to provide a more stable environment for Bernardo than Violeta has.)
The grandmother hates the mother, whom she blames for corrupting her son and preventing the grandmother from ever seeing her only grandchild. She is more than ready to break laws and use social prejudices to wrest her grandson from “immorality.” She is presented as a woman who has been treated badly, not just as a caricature of self-righteousness. It is easy to understand her and even possible to sympathize with her (though, later on, she crossed the line to inexcusable lies for me). Pedro does not want Bernardo to undergo a custody battle and knows that what the child wants is a minor consideration (as is what the mother wants, since she is imprisoned in India).
Pedro is a bit overprotective of Bernardo, overcompensating in trying to be a good parent and underestimating how much his nephew knows about adult concerns (from taking care of his mother), but (IMO) Pedro does quite well for someone suddenly thrown into being a single parent with no preparation for the role and having to cope with considerable social opprobrium for his lifestyle as a sexually active, uncoupled gay dentist.
I also found it delightful that Bernardo had a repertoire of seven meals, one for each day of the week. He had cooked for his mother and undertakes to feed Pedro (who, decidedly, does not look underfed). Bernardo wants to protect his uncle, especially feeling that he (Bernardo) has failed to raise his mother properly (so that she would not have run afoul of the law in India). Another smile-inducing scene is Bernardo telling his uncle that he is tired of the long hair his mother has insisted upon and wanting to have his hair cut short like Pedro’s.
The smart and charming boy seeking an initially reluctant father figure is reminiscent of the originally released Cinema Paradiso with the rather bearish Phillipe Noiret (and the even gruffer one in Kolya). Like that (before the undoing of the “director’s [un]cut”), Cachorro depends upon the rapport between the bearish man who has no experience of being a father and the young boy. David Castillo is a Spanish television child star, and José Luis Garcia Perez a distinguished Spanish stage actor. They have great rapport, just as the characters they play respect each other’s autonomy (and differences from each other). Each also has a great confrontation scenes with Bernardo’s grandmother.
The DVD I received had two deleted scenes. The first one is hilarious and was cut to get an R-rating. The second one is no particular loss to the movie. I was having difficulties with the disc and saw the two deleted scenes before seeing the movie, and then regretted the first one was missing when I finally got the movie itself to play.
Some of the nocturnal scenes seem under lit to me (probably attributable to a low budget). The subtitles are clear and grammatical. There are scenes in which the characters are speaking so fast that I could barely keep up with reading the subtitles, let alone try to compare what I was hearing with what I was reading (recalling Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge).
There is a text of three screens from writer-director Albaladejo. I did not see that there was a commentary track (but I have already noted some difficulties with the menus on the copy I saw, so it may have been there).
Postcript: I have been repeatedly amazed at the rapidity of social change in Spain after the death of Franco three decades ago. Among many other indicators are the movies like this one and Nico and Dani and many others. Civil society blossomed very quickly (as in Taiwan, after the death of another repressive dictator) and the revolt against the particularly reactionary Catholic Church in Spain that was a part of Franco-style fascism has been astoundingly successful. I’ve been waiting for sociological treatment of how this happened without the kind of mobilization to enforce the most reactionary claims of Christianists in the U.S.
If the food were not so over salted and the dining hour there so late, Madrid might beckon me! (But there is certainly no shortage of gay bears there already.)
This review was first published on epinions, 1 January 2006
©2006, 2017, Stephen O. Murray