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Your Next Life
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by Jason Whyte

"A picturesque 200 year old looking film...set today."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. "Your Next Life" is a film set in present time, but the place that exists in the film is one of peaceful tranquility, a land where its inhabitants refuse to let too much modern technology in and rather focus on centuries-old ethics. Its setting is in Cantebria (Northern Spain) and is like stepping into a time warp; here is a film where the roads aren't paved and next to no one owns a car. Even its main characters (except for one) look like classic frontier people.

As the film opens, we see a man searching for Vanessa, which we can only assume is another person, but it turns out to be a cow with that particular name. Vanessa is a prize-winning milk delivering machine, but these days needs a bit of help from the music box of Genia (Clara Lago). Genia is a teenager who secretly likes to dress up circa-2004, but her older-sister Val (the luminous Marta Etura) is more sophisticated to the land. And their father Gildo (Juan Diego), a hard-working, widowed villageperson, wants nothing more than this land to remain the way it is for centuries to come.

There are some odd bursts of violence throughout the film, as Vanessa's wandering cow leads into a neighbor's yard right at the wrong time causing a shift in the action. Suddenly, Gildo murders his neightbor Severo in rage. His son Rai (Luis Tosar) comes to town to take care of Severo's farm, and strikes up a romantic interest in Val, both unknowing that his father was murdered by Gildo. The scenes of Val and Rai together are quite sensual and romantic, and the film's use of nudity comes off just as surprising as the sudden violence. It's odd to see what would make an "R" rating in the US be in a film that would otherwise be rated "G".

That said, this is a beautiful and interesting film to look at. The village reminded me somewhat of the Shire in "The Lord of the Rings" films, a place where you would certainly want to hide-away for an extended vacation, at peace with the world. As much as I adore being a city-person, I would love to retire to a land like this, just as long as I also had my internet, DVD player and was still within reasonable distance of a cineplex

"Your Next Life," even with its odd choices of storytelling is still an effective film with a good dose of drama and humour. There's an amusing cow-milking contest towards the end of the film that involves a wide array of cows competing, although I'm not sure if Genia is allowed to use music on the cow as a cheat. The cow is like Genia herelf; she certainly isn't rejecting new technology.

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originally posted: 09/26/04 04:18:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

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