This quirky Spanish film centers around a tapas bar in a tranquilo suburb of Barcelona. Although the storyline is not full of action, you do get to meet some great characters who form unlikely relationships, like the bully tapas bar owner who hires a Chinese immigrant with a passion for cooking and a perfect command of Spanish or the young grocery store worker Cesar who falls for the owner of the neighborhood deli who is twice his age.
The film is also about secrets in love and life and coming to terms with them, like the drug-dealing grandma grappling with her husband's cancer diagnosis or the tapas bar owner understanding why his wife may have left him.
I imagine anyone who has spent time living in Spain would love this film for pointing out the subtle idiosyncrasies of Spanish culture.
Language Learning Notes
Stories of Southern Spain
Several years back I purchased this book before heading to Andalucia, one of my favorite regions of Spain. The memoir is clever, and really captures the feeling of Andalucia, with its dry hilly terrain, lemon and olive trees, and tranquilo people.
Title: Volver (Coming Back)
Ask any American about Spanish actress Penélope Cruz and they'll say: "she's beautiful". But is she a good actress? Hollywood films like Blow don't do a very good job of showcasing Cruz's talents as an actress; instead, they focus on her beauty and 'exoticness'. Enter Pedro Almodóvar, one of the most well-known Spanish directors, who also happens to know how talented Cruz is. Working together for the first time since Todo sobre mi madre, Volver is a fantastic film and Cruz is a worthy main character.
Next time you're heading to Spain, pack In the Garlic next to your guidebook (or you can pick it up when you get there). I wished I had read the book at the beginning of my trip, as it would have explained so much of my confusion about Spanish culture, for example:
When I walk by people on the street in a small town and I say "hola", why are they saying "adios"?
We say hello, and they say goodbye. We're used to this now, but it remained weird for a long time. When walking down the street it's only natural to greet someone you know with "Hola". The Spanish, however, get right to the point and dispatch you with an "Adios".