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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The People Upstairs (M) - 82 minutes

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Ana (Griselda Siciliani) and Julio (Javier Cámara) have been together for more than 15 years. They are a middle-aged couple in trouble.

He teaches music at a conservatory.

She is in retail and goes to the gym a couple of times a week.

They have a daughter, who is staying at her cousin's place the night Ana invites the neighbours from upstairs over.

They had apparently helped out when Ana and Julio renovated their apartment – which used to be Julio’s grandparents’ place – six months ago.

Ana promised to have them over for a meal.

Julio is hardly enamoured with the idea.

He tells her that only yesterday she had mentioned the idea of inviting them, not that she had already done so.

He says he is tired and has 50 test papers to mark, and without knowing the people upstairs regards them as boring.

Basically, from when he walks in the door after work, he and his wife clash … and they have done repeatedly for quite some time.

The spark has entirely vanished from their marriage.

They lead virtually separate lives and he appears to pick fault in almost everything she does.

Beyond that, their disagreements are laid bare.

She wanted more than one child. He didn’t. She likes cats. He doesn’t. He is frequently sarcastic and spiteful. And so on.

Ana implores Julio to be civil, but he wants to raise a controversial topic with the guests.

His carping and negativity gradually wear down Ana and she finally agrees to cancel, but by then the neighours are waiting at the front door.

Salva (Alberto San Juan) is a firefighter – a brigade chief – and Laura (Belén Cuesta) a psychologist.

She was married before and three weeks after meeting Salva packed her bags.

They have been together now for two years.

A very open couple, they say it like it is. In other words, they are blunt – especially him.

What they have to say is confronting, to say the least.

Ana and Julio are shocked. He, in particular, is outraged.

More than a few home truths are spoken as their relationship is put under the microscope.

Cesc Gay (Truman) has adapted his play The Upstairs Neighbours, which opened in Barcelona in 2015, for cinema.

A four-hander, on film it still very much has a theatrical feel.

There are plenty of awkward moments and chatter as the players move about Ana and Julio’s apartment, where virtually all the action takes place.

The People Upstairs is funny, the humour drawn from the circumstances the lead couple find themselves in.

There is often a twinkle in the actors’ eyes as they deliver their – at times, audacious – lines.

Among the key duo, Cámara does boorish with distinction (you just don’t like him), while Siciliani charms in channelling frustration.

Although there are hints, you can’t pick the particularly risqué nature of what unfolds … and I really liked that.

I also appreciated the fact that the offering is short and sharp.

The antagonistic tone is well and truly set before the neighbours arrive.

Then there is the discomfort associated with even the pleasantries before we get down to the nitty gritty.

I found The People Upstairs engaging and entertaining.

Rated M, it scores a 7 out of 10.


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