I’m not a snob but foreign films aren’t usually my favorite films to review. I find myself focusing on the subtitles and missing the film’s little nuances, and I hate that. I’d almost rather watch a silent film than one with subtitles. Dragging my rear to a screening of a foreign film is like pulling teeth. I’ve probably seen 100+ movies this year (at least) and only a handful of them were foreign films. That said, “Bad Education” wasn’t the typical foreign film experience for me. I was completely enthralled with Pedro Almodovar’s latest effort.
“Bad Education” is the twisted tale of two young boys who find solace and love in one another’s company while cooped up in a religious school. Torn apart by a jealous priest who wants little Ignacio for his own, the two wind up forced to go their separate ways. It isn’t until 16 years later when a man introducing himself as Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal) tracks down Enrique (the outstanding Fele Martinez), a talented young up-and-coming director, that the two young lovers reunite. Ignacio tells Enrique he now goes by 'Angel' and has written the story of their childhood. Presenting the script to Enrique, Angel hopes the filmmaker will choose to shoot his script and cast him in the lead. But nothing is as it appears as “Bad Education” twists and turns and completely ensnares the audience in its delicately constructed web.
Gael Garcia Bernal knocks it out of the ballpark with his portrayal of a drug-abusing transvestite. Definitely one of the best performances of the year, and by far the best performance in any foreign language film released in 2004, Bernal is it. He almost defies you to try and look away while he’s onscreen.
There are very few times I can sit through an entire movie and not once wonder about the director’s casting choices. Maybe it’s the kid who’s slightly out of place or the romantic leading lady who fails to ignite a fire under her male co-star. Most often it’s the tiniest of supporting roles where the filmmaker goes wrong. With “Bad Education,” every single actor – no matter the size of the role – is perfect. Almodovar has so thoughtfully and artistically created a realistic world for his fictional characters to inhabit that each becomes a fully developed figure in this cinematic experience.
“Bad Education” is not to be missed. Gael Garcia Bernal is Oscar-worthy and the film is smart, absorbing, and one-of-a-kind. An original story told by one of the best contemporary filmmakers, “Bad Education” is a mesmerizing movie experience.
"Bad Education" was directed by Pedro Almodovar and is rated NC-17 for a scene of explicit sexual content.