Are foreign language films in fashion?
When was the last time you went to see a film at the cinema? When was the last time you watched a film that wasn’t in your native tongue? The recently released Spanish language film Instructions Not Included has generated a whopping ten, million, dollars, all over a single weekend. This is a record for a Spanish film within the United States and landed it in fifth place among all films for the weekend even though it was only being played in a fraction of cinemas. Is this a possible sign that things are looking up for foreign films within the blockbuster heavy US market?
Instructions Not Included is a Mexican comedy-drama co-written, directed by and starring Eugenio Derbez. The film centers itself around Valentín, who’s living in Acapulco; one of his former flings leaves a child on his doorstep and disappears, Valentín then proceeds to Los Angeles to find the mother but instead finds a meaningful relationship with his new daughter and a new home in LA. He finds a job as a stuntman and raises his daughter, Maggie, for six years until the relationship becomes threatened as the mother reappears.
As I’ve stated above, the film is record-breaking among Spanish films and is making its fair share of coin, the reviews however have been mixed: Rotten Tomatoes has a rating of 54%, IMDB gives it 6.4/10, Joe Leydon of Variety states “This sporadically amusing but unduly protracted dramedy devolves into a shameless tearjerker in its third act.” So with a middle-of-the-road rating, what has made it such a success in the pockets of the producers?
There are a few possible answers to that question.
One is that there is a large Hispanic culture in the United States. Being next-door to Mexico ultimately means that there is a large base of Latin Americans that probably enjoy seeing films outside of the typical American blockbuster flicks.
Another possible answer is that foreign films can be very lovely and picturesque. Since they are foreign they can portray lands unlike what most locals will have seen and experienced; people like to see something new, something they don’t see or live themselves everyday.
One might argue that actors and actresses in foreign films are more believable due to the fact they are generally unknown to the local English communities and also because they speak a different language. There’s no denying the talent of actors such as Morgan Freeman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Jack Nicholson to name a few; but we also know of their lives outside of film, meaning we know they do not actually live inside the films we watch; foreigners however, ones that we’ve never seen before, speaking a language we’re unfamiliar with, leave us believing somehow that we’re actually watching them live. They belong here in this film and they don’t exist outside of it.
Maybe these are the reasons for the film’s success, or maybe it’s just a generally good film and the reviews should be ignored, which does happen — in the end you’ll never really know unless you see it for yourself.
Can you think of other foreign films that have been successful recently or in the past? Are there any others that you think deserve more attention?