Little Ashes (Regent Releasing, R)

film_little-ashes_sm.jpgLittle Ashes wants to be a romance, political drama and coming-of-age story, all rolled into one.





Little Ashes is supposed to be one of those deep romances told during a time of upheaval that makes everyone long for true, unending love. Instead, it’s a clunky mess devoid of much meaning or beauty.

Madrid in 1922 is on the verge of social and political unrest. A young Salvador Dalí (Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson) begins art school there as an outsider, but is quickly taken under the social wing of fellow students Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNulty). But it isn’t long before Dalí and Lorca form a bond that could change both their lives.

Little Ashes has lofty aspirations; it wants to be a romance, political drama and coming-of-age story, all rolled into one. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t do a very good job at any of these things. The result is a disjointed production that can’t make us feel for the characters’ plight.

The growing attraction between Dalí and Lorca is meant to be the emotional lynchpin of the movie, but we never get any clear indication of why their relationship takes the turns it does. For instance, when one of the young men decides to terminate the romance by moving to another country, the audience is left to guess at the reason. Did he feel weighed down by social conventions? Was the love he felt so powerful that it scared him? Could he have thought that the intensity of the affair was impeding his artistic pursuits? We’ll never know.

This film also wants us invested in the political and societal turbulence of the time, but their efforts at that fall flat as well. Many of the characters’ conversations about the political climate in Spain take place in clubs between bouts of drinking and dancing, where it’s a bit hard to take their sentiments seriously. They all say they want change, but none of them act on that supposed desire until the movie is almost over.

And, when Buñuel becomes upset over Dalí’s closeness with Lorca, he takes to a local park where gay men meet, seduces someone and then beats the man to the ground. Again, why? Was Buñuel hoping to be more than friends with Dalí? Did he feel that homosexuality ruined basic friendships between men? The audience is given no clue.

The performances in Little Ashes aren’t terrible, but there’s nothing remarkable here, either. Beltrán is all soulful eyes and pouty lips as Lorca. He’s cute and in love; he cares about his country, but fails to make us really care about him. Pattinson is almost perfectly wild-eyed and weird as young Dalí, but since we get no real insights into his character, he comes off as more of an earnest cartoon than a real person. | Adrienne Jones

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