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Camino

Year: 2009
Production Co: Mediapro
Director: Javier Fesser
Writer: Javier Fesser
Cast: Nerea Camacho

Despite the high quality look of this film, I still wasn't exactly sure what it was about. It might have been a sweet, heartfelt drama about a sunny little girl cruelly snatched away far too early by cancer, or it might be a satire on the modern church desperate for any good press it can get and the corrupting power of blind faith. I can only assume it's a bit of each, and I'm still not sure they go together properly.

Camino (Camacho, not nearly as good an actor as she is sweet and pretty) is a big-eyed, gorgeous young teenage girl who's so full of life it's infectious. She has a devoutly religious mother, a doting father and an older sister locked away (happily) from the world in a religious sect I originally thought was a rip-off of Scientology but which turned out to be Opus Dei.

She has friends at school and wants to join a local drama group, especially as the boy named Jesus she has a bad crush on is a member. But Camino gets sick and goes to hospital before she can embark on any of the adventures she's looking forward to, and even though doctors keep finding and removing worse and worse tumours, they start to eat Camino from the inside out, robbing her of her carefree existence but never dampening her sunny disposition.

With her loving but pious mother at her side telling her how wonderful God's plan for her is in giving her such trials, Camino hardly ever loses faith. And behind the scenes, the local religious authorities are positioning themselves to canonise Camino as a modern saint for her faith in the face of such suffering.

It's a long movie and also – despite the positive outlook of the characters – a thoroughly miserable one. The suffering visited on the poor girl is bad enough, but what befalls Camino's father at the worst possible moment seems like the writer/director just wanted to kick us when we're down (although the movie is apparently based on a true case from the mid 80s, so it might not be his fault.

Some flourishes like the animated sequences seem at odds with the drama and while the whole thing is good looking and well shot it seems very unsure of the tone it wants to portray more than once. Watch it only if life's going particularly good – if you've just had a death in the family or lost your job you'll probably want to throw yourself under a car.

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