September 23rd, 2022
MOVIE: 8 YEARS
STARRING: MIGUEL DIOSDADO, CARLOS MESTANZA, NATALIA RODRIGUEZ, ISABEL TORRES
DIRECTED BY: JD ALCAZAR
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
There are relationship films that have traditional arcs: boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets girl, etc. where the couples go through a series of trials and tribulations before coming together (or not) in the end. This type of classical romantic narrative has been a staple of Hollywood films as well as many independent LGBTQ films for many, many decades. The Spanish film 8 Years takes a very different approach that could be considered original and innovative but instead is ultimately a very unsatisfying, incomplete experience.
At the start of the film, Jose and David are seemingly enjoying their time on an island. They run naked through the streets and have passionate encounters on the beach. Eventually we find out that their relationship had actually ended a year earlier and the guys are trying to see if they can rekindle a spark which had started on the island eight years earlier. It’s a curious opening to the film that doesn’t really make itself particularly clear. What happened to them as a couple? What were the issues that broke them apart? The film doesn’t specify much about these characters’ lives and struggles except that they were moving in different directions. So how sincere was this island meeting?
Lesbian friends of the couple, Lucia and Fayna, are also thrown into the mix here. They are on the island having their own problems surrounding having children. Their presence in the film isn’t overly warranted except to give the guys a few pep talks and to perhaps show that most LGBTQ couples have issues that affect the stability of their relationships.
There’s also pink haired Raul who steamrolls his way into Jose and David’s excursion for reasons that become only somewhat clear late in the film. There are also a pair of homophobic thugs that push their own issues onto the guys but also don’t really serve any significant purpose to the narrative.
Perhaps the most mysterious character is one who serves as a sort of spiritual guide to Jose, offering statements such as “tourists travel with bodies…but they have a lot to learn” and “addictions put limits on you.” The latter might be a reflection of Jose’s own addiction to David but it’s an idea that never really gets fleshed out. Instead, Jose is taken on a journey that seems partially drug induced and delusion inducing. It is sort of his vision quest to awaken the demons within him. It’s another unusual plot direction that shifts the tone of the film into something a bit disturbing and perhaps unnecessary.
Most of this doesn’t really add up to anything that feels like a completely realized idea. The character Jose is also a screenwriter though and the film may be suggesting that part of what we are experiencing comes from his pen and paper. There’s not a lot to back this up though.
If the film has anything worth recommending it is the cinematography which captures the lush, picturesque setting of the island, complete with thick trees, flowing waterfalls, a hotel built into the side of a rocky hill, and wavy seascapes. It’s all quite beautiful. We can certainly see why Jose and David might want to return to this incredible site.
The actors are also fine and are asked to demonstrate a wide range of emotions and physical challenges. This isn’t quite enough for 8 Years though, which needs greater character and narrative development, along with some clearer and cleaner ideas.
8 YEARS PLAYS SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH AT THE LANDMARK CENTRE CINEMA AS PART OF REELING: THE 40TH CHICAGO LGBTQ+ INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Written by: Dan Pal