IMDB Description: “Two men meet in Barcelona and after spending a day together they realize that they have already met twenty years ago.”
Why I took it off the list: After reviewing 2 similarly bleak offerings with Saint Maud (2019) and French series The Collapse (2019), I decided to check something a bit more lighthearted/optimistic off my list and chose this well-reviewed queer love story.
I planned to publish my review in time for Valentine’s Day, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it’s a bit late…which is maybe for the best as the film turns out not to be your typical romantic flick with a cut and dry happy ending.
From everything I knew about End of the Century, it appeared to be a typical ‘romance develops over a short period of time in a specific location’ style narrative along the lines of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and its sequels.
The trailer also gave me strong vibes of Weekend (2011), Andrew Haigh’s breakout gay romance that follows what essentially boils down to a successful hookup that stretches out over the titular period of time.
So, although both the actors and the background scenery (shot in sunny Barcelona!) looked pretty, I wasn’t expecting anything too groundbreaking or revelatory from Fin de Siglo.
Spoilers? Mild spoilers for the narrative structure, but I won’t go into too many specific details.
Review of End of The Century
End of the Century starts like many a similar low-key romantic drama does, with a handsome foreigner arriving in a new city and overcoming their feelings of loneliness and displacement through a meet-cute with a handsome stranger.
The two characters then cycle through the typical beats of a random no-strings hook-up of the type that apps like Grindr have made so commonplace: those awkward pre-coital conversation points of ‘What do you dos?, ‘Want a drink?’ and ‘Shall we take this to the bedroom?’.
It’s only after Ocho and Javi switch numbers and decide to go for a second date in Parc de Montjuic that End of the Century gets interesting, because, as promised in the log line, they finally realize that they’ve actually done this before, 20 years previously.
This is the first interesting insight into the lives the two have led, and it only gets more revealing from here as it jumps back into the past to explore some surprising things about the time when Ocho and Javi first met.
Affectingly Naturalistic Acting
Despite its familiar storytelling and languid pace in the first act, Fin de Siglo still manages to effectively keep interest in the meet-cute playing onscreen by the well-matched central performances by Juan Barberini and Ramon Pujol.
Playing characters convincingly across a two-decade time-span is no easy task. But while Barberini and Pujol do not always physically convince as their younger selves, they both manage to convey an impressive amount of emotional maturity (or lack of, when required) throughout the film.
This is helped by the subtle details that the film uses to differentiate the two characters across time, both in their mannerisms and habits and by what they say. But to go into details of either would kind of take away the fun of ‘spot the difference’ that is one of the film’s many pleasures.
Surprisingly Provocative Narrative
The biggest surprise of End of the Century is how appealingly thought-provoking it turns out to be simply by presenting two major shifts in perspective at the end of its first and second acts.
Where most films about same-sex romance traditionally employ representatives of a hostile society as a ‘villain’ or obstacle to the relationship, this has started to shift.
Notable examples like God’s Own Country (2017), which I reviewed last year, and now this, are more interested in presenting the protagonist’s own personal flaws as obstacles to be overcome in their finding love. Which, as it is probably a more pressing problem to modern gay audiences, is only a good thing in my opinion.
Understanding the very different circumstances under which Ocho and Javi first met in the second act is undoubtedly surprising. However, it’s in the (initially jarring) final perspective shift that the film reveals that it has something really interesting to say about the passage of time and how certain choices can affect an entire life.
Final Score: 7/10
Worth Checking Out?
Yes, beautifully performed and surprisingly thought-provoking, End of the Century is an insightful and convincing modern romance story. Although it starts a bit slow, the thought-provoking payoff is well worth your patience.
Fin de Siglo (2019)
Written and Directed by Lucio Castro
Stay tuned for my next review, coming soon!