Javier Bardem has a bright, colourful persona. His look and facial expressions are more akin to that of a cartoon character which makes scenes more interesting to watch as he deals with real life, grown-up issues of gloom & depression. An odd observation yes, but an observation... one which impels me to delve into more of his exploits.
In a nutshell, this story shows how unemployment manifests itself around community folk. It remains transfixed on the subject of human relationships directly affected by common circumstance. The murky setting speaks volumes over the dialogue. With miserable overcast greys and rain puddles dotted around derelict streets and industrial backdrops; the mood is clear. And superficial connotations of the film title would be a sad mistake.
The group of now unemployed middle-aged men are presented with a real sense of hopelessness and reckless desperation. However, the theme is potently 'laugh or you'll cry' and the humour this gives way to is extremely funny at times "Bubbles.. orange or lemon?".
Out of pure boredom, they start taking shots at each others families/relationships either maliciously or endearingly but somehow all within the premise of sticking together. Some might erroneously classify this film as a dark comedy but the bar jokes and banter are heavily plagued by an undertone of sadness right the way through.
The screenplay forces you to care about these people. I feel the director intentionally held his cards close to his chest for the most part, leaving you to exercise your own adult intuition of everyone's thoughts and feelings in various situations. You'll experience a roller-coaster of emotions watching this film which arguably pays homage to Ken Loachs' "Riff Raff" in many ways. The melancholic soundtrack sits in the same vein as Claire Denis' "35 Shots of Rum" by Tindersticks.