Fourth Floor (Planta cuarta)

Director: Antonio Mercero

(2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 100 mins.)

Starring Juan Jose Ballesta of El Bola, this spirited, bittersweet tale about adolescent cancer patients was a sleeper hit in Spain and won the ‘Audience Prize’ at the Montreal Film Festival. Based on writer Albert Espinosa’s autobiographical play Los pelones (The Bald Guys), director Antonio Mercero’s film follows a recalcitrant gang of wheelchair-bound kids from amongst the ‘baldly’ population (so-called because of the effects of chemotherapy treatment) of the fourth floor. Led by wisecracking Miguel (Ballesta) and his mate Izan (Luis Angel Priego), the boys strive to maintain their sense of humour—and ability to be normal teens—despite the restrictive rules of the hospital. Avoiding excessive sentimentality by employing lashings of black comedy, cheeky antics and a casual realism, the film soars on the excellent performances by the young cast, especially Ballesta.

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