Rafael Belvedere (Ricardo Darin) is a 42 year-old, divorced, father who runs the restaurant that his parents established nearly fifty years ago. His father, Nino (Héctor Alterio), is mostly retired and makes daily visits to the hospital where his wife, Norma (Norma Aleandro), has been placed for her Alzheimer's disease. Avoiding the horror, Rafael has not seen her in a year.

Guilt for having dropped out of law school drives him to prove himself by making the business a success; he defiantly resists offers to sell. But his finances are a mess, his temper thin, and his relationships strained; he works too hard, sleeps too little, and drinks and smokes too much. Inevitably, Rafael has a massive heart attack and spends 15 days in ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

This intimation of mortality convinces him to change his life, sell his restaurant, and open his heart to the needs and worth of the people around him. He agrees to help his atheist father fulfill a romantic wish to finally marry the still beautiful but grievously departed Norma in a church, something she had long desired and he had always refused for his "principles." The priest declines the request because of Norma's disease, but an engaging solution is found.


A realistic plot, gentle humour, and great acting allow this film to bring home the effects--both positive and negative--of two, very common illnesses on one extended family. Aleandro's remarkable portrayal of dementia is credibly poignant with its tragicomic disinhibition. Once the edgy Rafael begins to appreciate the people around him, he is overwhelmed by their existential wisdom.

His adolescent daughter is wise because of the equal and steady affection she bears for all her elders. His childhood friend is wise because he has already lost a beloved wife and a child in an accident; he knows that nothing in his life can ever be worse. Love in its various forms--parental, sexual, idealized, and friendly--is the only truly effective medicine for the ailments of human life; and the cure is death.


In Spanish with English or French subtitles. This film won the Special Jury Prize Montreal World Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar (Best Foreign Film).

Primary Source

DVD Sony Pictures