Carla's Song

on June 26, 1998 by Lael Loewenstein
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As he did in his award-winning "Land and Freedom," director Ken Loach continues to explore the intersection of passion and politics. This time, the focus is not the Spanish Civil War but rather current-day Scotland and Nicaragua. After a chance encounter in Glasgow, romance blooms between local bus driver George (Robert Carlyle) and Carla (Oyanka Cabezas), a Nicaraguan emigre.
Beautiful but despondent, Carla conceals a painful secret that can be unearthed only when the lovers travel to her homeland. There, George meets a disaffected ex-CIA operative (Scott Glenn) who lectures him on the atrocities wrought by the American government. So defamatory is Glenn's speech, in fact, that it has been blamed for the film's failure to find stateside distribution. ("Carla's Song" has been sold in every other major market.) A pity: It might ruffle feathers, but "Carla's Song" deserves to be seen.
Loach has fashioned a moving, rhapsodic love story of two people from vastly different worlds. Part political thriller, part psychodrama, the film boasts a superb performance by Carlyle. As he has shown in "Priest," "Trainspotting" and "The Full Monty," he is an actor of astonishing range and depth. Cabezas and Glenn are not so fortunate; her performance is too internalized, his not quite credible. Still, Loach's straightforward, unglamorized approach works nicely. Haunting and wistful, "Carla's Song" is a film that lingers. Starring Robert Carlyle, Oyanka Cabezas and Scott Glenn. Directed by Ken Loach. Written by Paul Loverty. Produced by Sally Hibbin. A Shadow release. Unrated. English- and Spanish-language; subtitled. Running time: 127 min.
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