Jonas Trueba’s first film in Cannes follows a young Spanish couple who decide to celebrate their break-up

The Other Way Around

Source: Los Ilusos Films

‘The Other Way Around’

Dir: Jonas Trueba. Spain/France. 2024. 114mins

Jonas Trueba’s The Other Way Around, about a long-term couple celebrating their break-up with a party, has all the Spanish auteur’s stylistic hallmarks: downbeat, meandering dialogue, filmic and literary narrative games, the dishevelled, directionless protagonists and some self-reflexiveness. Trueba’s first visit to Cannes feels like the right move for a director whose devotion to the French New Wave is always in evidence. In Spain, Trueba and his Los Ilusos production company have built up something of a cult following, which could expand following the film’s Directors’ Fortnight screening.

Trueba continues to satisfy film buffs with plenty of fun self-referential elements

Only two of the roles are named in the end credits: film editor Ale (Itsaso Arana) and wannabe actor Alex (Vito Sanz). In the opening scene, as Ale and Alex lie in bed together in their Madrid apartment, Ale suggests that they should take seriously an idea from her free-thinking, philosophical father (played here by Fernando Trueba, the director’s own filmmaker father (Belle Epoque, Chico and Rita) – that it’s separations, rather than unions, that should be celebrated.

Plotwise, not much happens: the film is content to stick with its initial premise and explore it. By phone, or in bars and restaurants, Ale and Alex invite various friends and relations to their separation party and are met with a range of often comically revealing reactions. The film’s Spanish title is Volvereis, meaning ’you’ll get back together’, and, as the couple work to set up the party, it feels increasingly likely that this will happen.

Many of the characters here work at the edges of the film industry: they are the ilusos of the name of Trueba’s production company, which translates as both ’starry eyed’ and ’deluded’ - which pretty much sums things up, both for people trying to make their mark with this kind of low-budget, indie cinema and perhaps young lovers everywhere.  

Trueba continues to satisfy film buffs with plenty of fun self-referential elements, designed to appeal to purists. Sometimes, they are technical – there’s lots of play with onscreen titles, and (of course) the film we are watching is one that’s being edited by Ale. Cultural nods also abound: the entire film is presented as a 2024 version of Hollywood remarriage comedies of the 30s and 40s such as The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday. Ale and Alex use some very cool cinephile tarot cards, each featuring a still from a Bergman movie; and there’s an awkward but mirthful scene in which Ale vainly tries to defend Blake Edwards’ 10 from accusations of sexism and Trueba takes on the theme of cancel culture.

As so often with Trueba, The Other Way Around is part-homage to a Madrid off the tourist trail that is nicely captured by the careful framing and muted tones of DoP Santiago Racaj. But, aside from all the cinematographic playfulness and philosophical flirtation, viewers need a relationship and characters they can invest in, and the winsome Ale/Alex tandem delivers. Whether or not they’ll get back together is less important than whether the viewer has been made to care about them – and we do. 

Right from the start, there’s an imbalance between the slightly lost Alex, who basically seems to be going through the separation precisely because his girlfriend wants him to, and the composed, smart Ale. The perpetual undercurrent of tension between them always feels plausible and is well-rendered by Arana and Sanz, who co-wrote the script.  Amongst all the glancing ironies and wit, time also is thankfully also found for a little old-fashioned tenderness. 

Production companies: Los Ilusos

International sales: Memento International

Producers: Jonas Trueba, Javier Lafuente

Screenplay: Jonas Trueba, Itsaso Arana, Vito Sanz

Cinematography: Santiago Racaj

Production design: Miguel Angel Rebollo

Editing: Marta Velasco

Music: Iman Amar, Ana Valladares, Guillermo Briales

Main cast: Itsaso Arana, Vito Sanz, Fernando Trueba