Spanglish is one of those movies that I saw the trailer for but never heard anything about after that. That was until it turned up on my Netflix; so one Thursday afternoon, I sat down with some kettle chips and (finally) watched it.
I’ll start by saying that the film itself is very different to the trailer. In the trailer, its set up as a rom-com between newly hired Mexican nanny, Flor (played by Paz Vega), and man of the house, John (Adam Sandler). It implies that Sandler is the focus of the film and that’s pretty much all there is to it. Don’t get me wrong, he does play an important character, but it’s more than just some chick-flick.
The movie is narrated by Flor’s daughter, Cristina, and spends the first 15 minutes-ish explaining their life as they emigrate from Mexico to LA. It’s clear that Flor will do anything to give her daughter a better life, even if it means getting a job working for a rich, white family. The problem is that, although she’s lived in America for several years now, she doesn’t speak much English and can’t communicate with the family.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the family can’t seem to communicate between themselves either. The Clasky family is dysfunctional to say the least, and it sets up an interesting contrast in mother-daughter relationships. Flor and Cristina are very close, whereas Deborah Clasky and her daughter, Bernie, couldn’t be more distant. Deborah is quick to crisis her kids because they don’t meet her high expectations, and her actions are tearing the family apart.
The different parenting styles clash when the Claskys rent a house on beach for the summer and insist that Flor and Cristina come too. Seeing that Cristina fits her idea of what a perfect daughter should be like, Deborah starts focusing more time with her, imposing on Flor’s relationship, and leaving her own children isolated.
I loved the way the movie incorporates Spanish without having English subtitles. Instead, Cristina is used to relay messages between her mother and the family, empathsising to the audience the difficulty of the language barrier. I thought that it was rather cleverly written, and Shelbie Bruce does a wonderful job playing Cristina.
The problem I had was that while I enjoyed the majority of the film, it seemed to lose its way for the last half hour. All the tension had been built but was left to deflate as there was no satisfying confrontation. It felt like there was so much potential to do more, but the got bored and tried to wrap thing up without resolving everything. I’m not saying that they should have had some fairy tale “and they lived happily ever after”, but I was expecting a little more than what I got.
That said, I still enjoyed watching Spanglish and would encourage you to see it if you haven’t already. It was good movie for a Thursday afternoon when I had nothing better to do, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t rush to the cinema to see it.