It's no Sleeper and No Drag Either

Gael García Bernal as Zahara in Bad Education (2004)

I've never watched a Pedro Almodóvar movie before but going on the cleverly constructed and dark "Bad Education" I will be watching more. Here is a movie which starts in such a way it makes you think of "Sleepers" as we have this storyline of two grown men who met years earlier at school, a school where Padre Manolo preyed on one of them. And it pushes your comfort barriers with scenes of homosexuality which will make those ill at ease at watching two men together reach for the off button. But then it turns the story completely on its head and in doing so changing the nature of the movie completely making it a compelling thriller as you don't want to miss a single twist because it is so good.

Now normally I would try and come up with a reasonable synopsis for a movie but to do so for "Bad Education" would force me to divulge many major twists and trust me you don't want a single twist spoiled. What I will say is that when "Bad Education" starts you will probably be confused because the opening credits and musical accompaniment is stereotypical of an exciting thriller, powerful orchestral movements over stylish credits. Yet if you have read a synopsis you have probably read that it is the story of Ignacio and Enrique, who fell in love at school in the 60s but had to deal with Padre Manolo having a thing for Ignacio and over the years these characters met up again and that makes it very confusing. It almost seems like the opening credits don't match a story about homosexual love and sexual abuse and you do wonder what the heck is what.

Fele Martínez as Enrique Goded in Bad Education (2004)

But as I said "Bad Education" is not what it seems and what we watch is not necessary what it seems either when we witness a scene where Ignacio now working as a drag act by coincidence meets a drunk Enrique and basically rapes him. Yes that is as uncomfortable to watch as it sounds but it is also mystifying because of what else we watch and slowly over the course of the movie what seems like a bit of a homosexual love story turns into this fascinating thriller. And trust me just when you think you have got something sorted in your head another twist comes along to toy with you further. Because of this and because "Bad Education" is a Spanish movie with subtitles, if you don't understand Spanish you have to pay attention to both the text and what happens in the scene to keep on top of the unfolding drama.

But "Bad Education" is more than just a fascinating and frankly brilliant story which goes from semi romantic to dark it is also a beautiful looking movie. The contrast between scenes set in the now and the past are stunning and the use of old buildings makes it almost reminiscent of "Cinema Paradiso" especially the exterior of an old cinema. In fact there is a scene inside the cinema which takes an element of "Cinema Paradiso" and twists it into something different and for those not prepared a little uneasy. And to be frank the way Almodóvar toys with us and unravels what is what is not only clever writing but also direction because the pacing is spot on.

There is of course the acting whether it is Gael García Bernal as a drag artist or when he turns on the seductive looks he is captivating but then so is his character who becomes increasingly intriguing the more the movie reveals itself. The same with Fele Martínez as Enrique because he is the character who finds himself in the midst of the unfolding drama and his way of dealing with it is pitch perfect, confused but not over the top. In fact there is not a bad performance in the movie even the two boys who play young Ignacio and Enrique do a phenomenal job.

What this all boils down to is that "Bad Education" is not a movie you will forget in a hurry. From scenes of homosexuality which will unsettle some to the way the story suddenly turns on its head and becomes something very different makes it memorable as do the performances from Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez as well as the writing and direction of Pedro Almodóvar.

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