Retornos Film Review

Retornos Film Review
Pandemic or not, social distancing is often practiced amongst blood relatives. In "Retornos", the estrangement is particulary acute between Alvaro (Xavier Estevez) and Xose (Xose Manuel Olveira); as it would be if you attempt to run off with your brother's wife and accidently kill her in the process. Alvaro, the responsible party, leaves the small Spanish village of his birth and heads to Switzerland. He lives a spartan existence, licking his wounds, until the death of his father forces him home after a ten-year absence.

Alvaro is disturbed to find that his ex-wife is married to club (and brothel) owner, Nestor (Emilio Gutierrez Caba). His adult daughter is close friends with one of Nestor's employees, Lidia (Yoima Valdes). Xose is also connected to the club by his affair with Lidia's colleague, Jimena (Solange Freitas). When one of the prostitutes dies in suspicious circumstances, Alvaro's investigation leads to an inexorable confrontation with Xose.

Elements of noir are freely incorporated by the makers of "Retornos"; the use of flashbacks, the role of fate, the rain-soaked exteriors, and the indifference of law enforcement. As is typical of noir, the characters seem to exist in a moral vacuum. Nestor justifies his livelihood by saying he treats his hookers well. Elisa (Maria Bouzas), Nestor's wife, has no qualms profiting from the flesh trade. She babysits the children while their mothers work. The main characters are all tainted by association and when a murder does occur, the victim is portrayed as complicit in her death.

The tone of the film is sorrowful rather than sordid, however. The original soundtrack by Diego Lipnizky and Sergio Moure not only establishes the mood, but lifts the film to a higher level. The classically-inspired score, and the unusual orchestration which features an English Horn, is contrapuntal. The intertwining strands of melody echo the complicated relationships portrayed on-screen. The manner in which Alvaro receives redemption questions whether family loyalty outweighs any considerations of justice.

"Retornos" was released in 2010. The film is in Spanish and French with English subtitles. Currently streaming on Amazon, I watched "Retornos" at my own expense. Review posted on 7/11/2020.

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