Who wouldn’t want to be a guest at a wedding in a tiny, sun-warmed village in Spain set in the midst of a lush vineyard, especially when Paco (a big, bearded and robust vintner Javier Bardem) and Laura (an irresistible Penelope Cruz) are two of the guests?

This is Paco’s village and vineyard, and Laura and Paco were lovers here in another summer, and everybody knows that they never stopped loving one another through all the winters that followed.

But all of that was long ago. Laura left Spain for Buenos Aires, met another man, and got married and had two children.

But this day there is a family wedding, and Laura has returned with her children, leaving her husband behind with his job.

Yes, this is a romantic story, and where there is romance, there is danger. Ask Papa Hemingway.

It starts with a softness like a spring Barcelona breeze. We know that it only needs a few more ingredients to live up to its billing as a “drama/thriller,” and wait for that … and wait … and wait, as if for a late day promised train to arrive.

But we’re waiting with Javier and Penelope, and there are guitars and singers and olives and ripe cheese and good wine with beautiful people waiting to be married. We wait.

But after a beginning that takes too long to dribble out, we enjoy the scenery full of sun-warmed vistas, cobble stones streets, ancient churches with historic bell towers and colorful villagers basking in the sun on street side cafes. Enough.

Finally the plot explodes. Laura’s daughter Irene (Carla Campra) meets a boy who has a Vespa, and then it is night and it begins to rain and Laura’s bed is empty. Forget the boy and scooter. That would be too easy. This is Asghar Farhadi country; nothing is easy here.

Even in the midst of this mysterious disappearance, everyone’s eyes are on Paco and Laura because, as we’ve been told, “everybody knows.”

Thanks to director Asghar Farhadi, who gave us the Oscar-winning “The Salesman,” we can feel the heat even in the shadows and smell the invisible smoke that flows between the two former lovers.

Soon we will learn more from snippets of conversations between those who remember, those who know and those who have stories and broken, stolen dreams. This is Spain remember; there are aged cheeses and memories here. There are jealousies, and everyone has a secret. What more can you ask?

In the middle of this dust storm, Laura’s husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) arrives from Buenos Aires with his own complicated baggage. And there is something in the woods and in the bedroom that will spill out over the trio of once and always lovers.

Farhadi gives us closeups of the eyes, and Jose Luis Alcaine takes his camera to each as Javier Limon floats in with his music, and all we need to know is there.

Darin, as the troubled husband, brings smoke and pain to the wedding, and each guest is perfectly cast and placed. But it is the music that Javier and Penelope bring to this wedding that makes our hearts dance.


J.P.  Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.

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