The Soul of Flies is the debut feature from Jonathan Cenzual Burley and tells the tale of two brothers who, after receiving a letter from the father that abandoned them, make a journey across the Spanish countryside to attend his funeral. Along the way they meet thieves, watermelon-throwing locals and a suicidal narcoleptic, stopping each time for a lengthy spot of life reflection with each.
What often causes problems with these bizarre-encounter-movies is the failure to transition between each episode smoothly, an issue The Soul of Flies neatly sidesteps by using a warm guitar-twanging score and gorgeous shots of the Spanish countryside to blend things together.
Equally pleasing is that despite, or perhaps because of, the low production values Burley – on directing, writing, editing and DoP duties – infuses the story with an honest, gentle and overtly natural feel. In this he’s helped enormously by the performances of the two leads; Javier Sáez and Andrea Calabrese are always believable as two totally different brothers struggling to discover their heritage and do well to give even the most out-of-place moments a hint of sweetness.
Trouble is, each segment is so full of people talking about abstract topics that the narrative gets lost along the way. For all the amusing chitchat about watermelons and dogs having souls, Burley’s script struggles to go anywhere and by the time ghosts are interacting with the living, the journey’s become a bit tedious. It also struggles to pin down a central theme; heritage, family, overcoming your inner demons, are all very interesting but nothing is held onto for long enough to be properly explored.
Still, considering almost everyone here is a first-timer and performing multiple roles (Andrea Calabrese also composed the score), The Soul of Flies is a pleasingly warm starting point and should ensure that Burley’s next endeavour is looked upon with interest.
El Almas De Las Moscas (The Soul of Flies) is available to own on DVD from 22 October, courtesy of Matchbox Films .
Joshua has awarded The Soul of Flies three Torches of Truth.