Review by Tim Plant
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Wednesday, 10/19/2011, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $12 at West End Cinema
Spanish with English Subtitles
IN THE REALM of single-parent films, which range from wacky comedies to tear-jerking dramas, Anything You Want deserves special recognition not just for its quality but for its unique approach to the subject.
When Leo (Juan Diego Botto) loses his wife and becomes the primary caregiver for his 4-year-old daughter, he’s overwhelmed on every level. Yet Dafne (Lucía Fernández) is never anything less than the sole focus of her father’s new, shattered life. And while those surrounding Leo tell him that he can’t raise Dafne and continue his growing law practice at the same time, he never backs down.
What makes Anything You Want stand out is the extreme to which writer and director Achero Mañas has Leo go. When Dafne asks for a ”fake mom” to help her sleep, Leo quickly steps into his dead wife’s shoes. For him, it’s not a question of his sexuality, it’s a question of meeting the needs of his daughter. For the rest of the world, it’s about his stability.
Botto tackles his role with gusto, creating a flawed father figure who is so earnest in his desire to do right by his daughter that he will alienate all those close to him. Botto’s performances as Leo and Alicia are equally strong, though it’s clear that Leo is acutely aware that his time as Alicia is for Dafne’s sake. Opposite him, Fernández’s performance is far beyond her few years, making it more than just a cute kid reciting lines.
When most of Leo’s friends desert him, he builds a relationship with a cabaret performer (José Luis Gómez), who helps him with his transition (and homophobia). This relationship is an important part of Leo’s journey, but also slightly under-developed. However, since Mañas sacrifices this budding friendship to focus on Leo and Dafne, it’s excusable.
Anything You Want is about what it takes to be a father, which can be very different than what it takes to be a man.