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By Mark Bell | August 2, 2013

Evaristo (Felix Cenzual) lived a life full of adventure, whimsy and women, and as his days wind down, he has but one final request, that his two sons, Miguel (Javier Sáez) and Nero (Andrea Calabrese), attend his funeral. The rub is that neither son has ever met their father, nor do they know of each other’s existence. Still, when Evaristo’s funeral rolls around, the brothers find themselves in the middle of the Spanish countryside, waiting at an abandoned train station, trying to get to the small town to honor their father’s request.

Thus a journey begins as Miguel and Nero work their way slowly to the funeral by walking, hitchhiking and even scootering. As the two learn more about each other, and their differences, they encounter strange characters such as the narcoleptic Frederico (Norberto Gutiérrez), whose attempt at hanging himself failed when he fell asleep in preparation, or the mysterious Girl of the Sunflowers (Diana Pintado), who Nero has long been dreaming about, but who he has never met (until this trip).

Jonathan Cenzual Burley’s The Soul of Flies is a fantastical tale portrayed in a straightforward way. While many moments in this film might cause some to pause and say, “that was strange,” everything is accepted as commonplace and normal. When the brothers, already extremely late for the funeral, encounter the ghost of their father, for example, it’s not something that shocks or surprises them.

In that way, it greatly reminded me of another fantastical tale of accepted strangeness, Like Water for Chocolate, though that one had darker and more dramatic elements than this one. This one also grooved along the lines of The Seventh Seal, though that may have much to do with a sequence involving musically-inclined thieves dancing across the countryside, in addition to the overall journey itself. But I don’t mention those films to make you think that it’s entirely aping their endeavors so much as giving you an idea of the type of tone and film this is.

Because it is a strong film unto itself, though it is one that, due to its magical nature, feels devoid of conflict and suspense. It’s more of a story where you watch and wonder what or who will be encountered on the trip to the funeral, but you never doubt that they’ll get there, or even that these two very different people will become friends, if not accept their bloodline, by the end. So it engages, but on a very surface level.

In a way, Miguel and Nero become guides for the audience to follow, but not so much characters for the audience to care about. You may come in and out of liking them, but even then neither one of them does anything too far to make you judge too harshly. They facilitate the journey for the audience, but they’re hardly the most intriguing part of any of it.

That said, The Soul of Flies is an entertaining film, and a well-made one at that. The Spanish countryside both looks like a barren wasteland and like a glorious environment to escape into, depending on the angle you take. It’s a magical, philosophical ride, and if you open yourself up to that style and pace, it’s not unpleasant. But it lacks anything to make it terribly memorable, and it keeps its distance emotionally.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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