January 8, 2007
The Education of Fairies, 2006
Part whimsical fable and part affectionate human comedy, José Luis Cuerda's The Education of Fairies is a slight and effervescent, but charming and thoughtful demythification of a "happily ever after" romantic ideal. The opening transition from a graphically illustrated title sequence to a live action shot of a father recounting a bedtime story on the magical powers and elusive nature of fairies to his young son (an abstraction that he would later explain as the result of a fairy's amnesia before coming into her powers) - sets the bifurcated, yet oddly cohesive tone for the film, as the seemingly idyllic, fairytale portrait of the family - the doting father, loving wife, precocious child - proves to be the result of a mundane fusion of divine chance and human intervention from the resourceful imagination of the endearing and good natured toy inventor, Nicolás (Ricardo Darín). Two years earlier, having spotted the attractive, young widow, an ornithologist named Ingrid (Irène Jacob) traveling with her son Raúl (Víctor Valdivia), Nicolás had appropriated a reserved, chauffeur-driven private car from the airport in order to ingratiate himself into their company, an audacious and impulsive act that would eventually succeed in winning the affections of both mother and son. Settling into an inherited country estate for a life of domestic bliss with his new family, Nicolás' life is turned to upheaval when one day, Ingrid enigmatically asks that he sleep in another room under the ruse of being kept awake by his distractive snoring, a request that soon becomes a palpable harbinger to his realized fear of her increasing estrangement from him. With his "natural" father and mother withdrawing further into the silent grief of their self-imposed separation, young Raúl decides to invoke his own fairy in the form of a troubled supermarket checkout clerk named Sezar (Bebe) in order to educate her into developing her powers and, consequently, reconcile his parents. Based on the contemporary novel by French author, Didier Van Cauwelaert, the film's pervasive eccentric humor and compassionate treatment of its characters provide an incisive framework for Cuerda's seamless exposition on the bounds of fairytale, enduring love, and the transformative power of the imagination.