The best thing, worst thing, and main thing about the Spanish language import “Instructions Not Included” in about the time it takes to watch the trailer.
if you want to bridge the culture gap with a movie, using a the love of a father for his daughter isn’t a bad way to go.
“Instructions Not Included” is a Spanish language film now making some major waves at the US Box Office. It tells the story of a confirmed Mexican bachelor who all of the sudden finds himself forced to be a father and how that situation plays into his lifelong struggle with fear. That is, if you can keep up with the subtitles. Actually, truth be told, subtitles have never bothered me that much, I learned how to read in grade school and I can still manage to pull it off when the need arises. It is a bit of a handicap as a reviewer, though, because I’m never quite sure how good the line delivery is, because I’m not sure which words go with which intonations. Yet, this movie makes a valiant attempt at being compelling despite that difficulty.
A lot of what works about “Instructions not Included” has to do with the story. There is a genuine beauty to the way it unfolds and how it affects the characters involved. There were also genuine twists and turns to it that I didn’t see coming that had some real impact including an incredibly powerful and moving finish. and I really enjoyed the metaphor running through the film about how fear was like a wolf, a metaphor that seemed valuable in both conveying emotion and driving the plot. But the best thing was how sweet the heart of this movie was. This father and daughter here develop an incredible chemistry that feels so real and beautiful that it almost makes it possible to overlook the many flaws that surround it, and there are quite a few.
For one, the movie suffers from a real over the top presentation that steals a lot of the believability. Now, granted, it might just be a cultural difference in sense of humor or tone, I’m really not sure. But it felt a little bit like the classic idea of a tella novella, where every joke is pounded into the ground and every heart tug is just a little too forceful. The movie also starts to noticeably drag about half way in, almost like the editor got fed up and quit halfway through the final editing pass. But the worst thing has to be the English acting. Anytime someone starts speaking in English in this movie, it becomes almost cringe worthy. It’s as if the English actors were told to over pronounce everything and speak slowly and it completely took me out of the story every time they opened their mouth.
Overall, Instructions Not Included is a heart felt, beautiful story, with an engaging and genuine father daughter relationship that is undercut by over acting and slow second half. There really is just as much bad as good here, but for me the powerful finish bumps this one up to a C+
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