¡Viva! at HOME – Llenos de Gracia

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the spirited, annual Spanish and Latin American festival that is ¡Viva! at HOME Mcr

Festival season hits Manchester!

Not on brand, I recently left the streets paved with gold that is Manchester, for a short period to Rome. But before I flounced off, I attended the opening night and feature that is Llenos de Gracia (Full of Grace), directed by Roberto Bueso.

Based on a true story, a delightful comedy about second chances and the inspirational power of purpose, belief and belonging. A rebellious nun arrives at a boarding school to take charge of an unruly bunch of orphan boys, and changes lives with a make-shift football team.
In the summer of 1994, 11 boys on the cusp of adolescence are descending into delinquency without the structure and love of caring families to go home to. Until Marina, a nun who has never quite found her place, shakes things up when she sets up a school football team to keep her young charges on the straight and narrow.

Hands up, I inwardly groan when I get a sense of a ‘feel-good’ film on my hands. I know, what a kill-joy I am.

But I need to stop viewing such description through chintzy, sickly sweet tinted glasses. Feeling good comes in many forms and some of those forms are brilliantly funny, sweary in parts, Spanish films set in an orphanage run by nuns.

So far, so Sister Act, right?


It was better (and with a whole lot less breaking into song – hurray!).

I love a brat pack ensemble and the kids in this film were brilliant. Sparky, endearing, plucky, cheeky, rampaging renegades that they are, as a collective they stole the show.

Close behind being actor, Carmen Machi, who plays nun (and football coach),Marina.

Wedded to her cigarettes and Walkman, there are enough hints that she’s may have more in common with her charges than you’d think.

With some devilishly funny scenes both on the pitch and off (the hall of mirrors being a highlight) the film reaches conclusions that remain faithful to the ‘more sass less schmaltz’ tone that runs throughout.

And with a nice ‘based on a true story’ revelation at the end (loosely on that of ex Real Madrid footballer, Valdo Lopes), there is much to enjoy here.

For me, and call me old-fashioned, but the cinema remains the best place to watch a film. It isn’t just about the best setting to tickle your senses, but in this day and age there are few situations or places where you can be fully immersed and focused on being entertained and the activity in hand.

And for those who may fear the foreign-language world of the subtitled film (any hint of condescension purely unintentional), just give it a go. I promise that you soon won’t even notice the difference. Plus, by design, you will not miss a thing laid out on screen before you.

There are some brilliant films on the bill and ¡Viva! still has a week to run, so check on the events calendar and treat yourself to something different…


Llenos de Gracia shows at HOME again on 29 March – full details of cast and production and tickets can be found here.

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