Dirs/scr: Jose Corbacho,Juan Cruz. Sp. 2004. 94mins.

A crowd-pleasingslice-of-life set in Barcelona, Tapas weaves several stories into acharming, if slight, whole. Opening on May 13 in Spain, it looks good formedium local success, but better for international arthouse with several salesconcluded after its screening at the Malaga Film Festival last week (where itwon, among others, best film, best actress and several audience awards).

Like a saccharine ShortCuts, or a more adult Love, Actually, Tapas wears its hearton its sleeve and signals its intent early on via a whimsical, intrusive melodicscore. Definitely amusing in parts, it tracks several stories in one Barcelonabarrio - and a movie which starts with the sounds of a middle-aged womanmasturbating over her computer can't but grab viewers' attention.

Said woman is Raquel(Minguez), a solitary shopkeeper whose husband fled the coop two yearspreviously; soon she'll be embarking on an affair with a teenage supermarketshelf-stacker called Ruben (Ochandiano), best friends with Bruce Lee fanaticOpo (Paso), while maintaining her internet chatroom relationship with anArgentinian who threatens to arrive at any minute.

Elsewhere, curmudgeonlylocal barkeeper Lolo (de Andres) finds himself at sea when his wife and chefwalks out, leading him to hire Chinese immigrant Mao and confront his racialprejudices. And, sprightly octogenarian drug-dealer Dona Conchi (Galiana) hasto face the fact that her beloved husband, Mariano, may make a choice with hislife that leaves her bereft.

Co-directors andfirst-timers Corbacho and Cruz unspool the stories over several days in theworking-class neighbourhood of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, and impress withtheir debut effort. The two older actors - de Andres as the sweaty cheapskateLolo and Galiana as a spirited Dona Conchi - are standouts, making theirsequences the most watchable.

Tech credits are fine, ifunspectacular, and while Tapas is resolutely charming and often funny,it is ultimately insubstantial - a bit like the snacks ("lids") it takes itstitle from.

Prod cos: Tusitala, Castelao Prods
Int'l sales:
Filmax Int'l
Sp dist:
Exec prods:
Luisa Matienzo,Carlos Fernandez, Monica Roza
Luisa Matienzo, JulioFernandez
Guillermo Granillo
Prod des:
Mireia Carles
Pablo Salas
Main cast:
Angel de Andres, MariaGaliana, Elvira Minguez, Ruben Ochandiano, Dario Paso, Alberto de Mendoza,Rosario Pardo