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The Essential Guide to Bristol
10 February 2009
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Vicky Cristina Barcelona (12A)

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Review byMatthew Turner06/02/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Brilliantly written, beautifully shot and frequently hilarious, this is Woody Allen's best film in a long, long time, thanks to delightful performances from Hall, Johansson, Bardem and Cruz.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona stars Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson as Vicky and Cristina, two American friends who travel to Barcelona in order to spend the summer with Vicky's relatives (Patricia Clarkson and Kevin Dunn). Vicky is reserved and cautious with a fiance back home (Chris Messina), while Cristina is looking for passion and unpredictability, which is exactly what she finds when both women are chatted up by passionate painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem).

When Juan Antonio invites both women to spend a weekend with him, Vicky reluctantly accepts, but when Cristina comes down with food poisoning, it's Vicky who ends up succumbing to Juan Antonio's charms, causing her to doubt her feelings for her fiance. Meanwhile, Cristina moves in with Juan Antonio and begins a relationship with him, but things quickly get complicated when Juan Antonio's fiery ex Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) shows up.

The Good
The performances are superb and there's genuine chemistry between Bardem and all three of his gorgeous co-stars, the lucky bastard. However, the film is completely stolen by Penelope Cruz, who explodes onto the screen like an angry fireball, by turns hilarious, shocking, wildly unpredictable and crazily sexy – it's her best role for years and one that deservedly landed her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars.

The Great
Shooting in Barcelona seems to have given Woody Allen the creative shot in the arm that he failed to get from London in his last three films. At any rate, he certainly captures the hazy, almost dream-like romanticism of the city - aided by Javier Aguirresarobe's sumptuous cinematography - and there's a genuine warmth that you don't normally associate with Allen's films.

Worth seeing?
Hugely entertaining, subtly sexy and laugh-out-loud funny, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a long-awaited return to form for Woody Allen and one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona (12A)
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