Dir: Kike Maillo. Spain. 2011. 95mins


An impressively staged and delightfully low-key sci-fi tale, Spanish film Eva is a thoughtful affair punctuated by some well-executued effects and a series of impressive lead performances. It is the antithesis of recent Hollywood robot films such as Real Steel, though might make a charming Europeancompansion piece to Spielberg’s A.I., and if handled correctly could well find an appreciative audience beyond the festival circuit.

At heart Eva is a charming tale of love and emotion.

Set some 30 years into the future where robots of different styles and shapes are beginning to ‘live’ alongside humans, Eva might well get bracketed a simple genre film, but in fact its style and tone would work for non-genre audiences. The film premiered out of competition in Venice and is set to open in Spain on October 28.

German actor Daniel Bruehl (showing an easy command of Spanish) stars as scientist Alex Garel, who returns to his snowy Spanish hometown to take up a position at the University and to work on a new generation of robot, the SI-9. He meets up with his brother David (Alberto Ammann), who is married to Alex’s former love Lana (an impressive Marta Etura), though after 10 years away he appears to know little about their relationship.

Alex’s talent is working on the personalities of robots, and is intent on developing a unique robot replete with moods and emotions. He wants to find a real child to base his design on, and when he spots quirky, intelligent and charismatic 10 year-old Eva (Claudia Vega) he is convinced she is the child to work with. It also turns out that she is Lana and David’s child.

It will come as no real plot surprise to find out that there is more to Eva than meets the eye, but the film manages to weave in enough style and intelligence to set film apart from other genre films. The snowy backdrop oddly makes for an unusual Spanish film, and while it is resolutely futuristic the special effects are never leveraged on – there are a few ungainly robots in the opening scenes; the cars have some jazzy controls and Alex has a cool phone, but there are no outlandish special effects.

The relationship between Alex and Lana is nicely subtle and complex, though the film’s only real humour comes from Lluis Homar (from Broken Embraces) who plays Alex’s manservant robot Max, sweetly mannered and compassionate and handy at making dinner, while there also some quirky fun from Alex’s robot cat.

The opening scenes hint at a tale of death and mystery, but at heart Eva is a charming tale of love and emotion, and while the ending is a little dragged out – and quite obvious – it remains a chamring and beautifully made film that deserves to find distribtuion attention.

Production companies: Escandalo Films Prods., Ran Entertainment, Television Espanola Canal Plus, Televisio de Catalunya Bunuel-Iberautor

International sales: Wild Bunch, www.wildbunch.biz

Executive producers: Sergi Casamitjana, Aintza Serra, Lita Roig

Screenplay: Sergi Belbel, Cristina Clemente, Marti Roca, Aintza Serra

Cinematography: Arnau Valls Colomer

Editor: Elena Ruiz

Music: Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine

Main cast: Daniel Bruehl, Marta Etura, Alberto Ammann, Claudia Vega, Anne Canovas, Lluis Homar