Spanish director Juan Carlos Medina debuts with Painless, which is described as a contemporary thriller with flashbacks to the Spanish Civil. It features children with superpowers, renegade Nazi scientists, and an orphanage on a rocky perch.
Painless was screened at the London Film Festival earlier this week. It is co-written by Luiso Berdejo, who also co-wrote the Spanish horror flick [REC]. It has high production values that can easily entertain viewers across the globe. Its historical and political connotations can be marketed to bring in mainstream movie fans.
The story takes place in two parallel strands. The first one happens in the 1930s when a group of children are discovered to have a rare medical condition that prevents them to feel pain. The local elders exile them to a monastery up in the Pyrenees.
Then in the present time, neurosurgeon David (Alex Brendemuhl) survives from a car accident but only to learn that he has an aggressive form of cancer. The only cure is a bone marrow transplant from his biological parents but he doesn’t have good relations with them.
The two plots might not seem to be connected at first until David’s parents reveal that he is adopted. Then it turns out that the monastery is taken over by rival factions during the Spanish Civil War. First it is taken by armed Republican leftists then by General Franco’s fascist army. We learn that children had to endure torture, rape, execution, and medical experiments for decades. Some of the children grow up and escape from the monastery. Then there’s the brutalized Berkano (Tomas Lemarquis), who is exploited as a monster by Franco’s regime.
The characters in Painless are two dimensional and fail to get the sympathy of the audience. The plot suffers from improbable coincidences and features several loose ends. But these flaws come with the genre and you an easily look pass them. Painless is an impressive debut for the Medina.