Brief synopsis: Former mathematics professor, Emilio (Oscar Martinez), now in his twilight years, goes to see a doctor after showing signs of forgetfulness. He is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and asked if he has any relatives. He says he has none. When leaving the doctor office they bump into, Julia (Inma Cuesta), his daughter. She finds out he has early Alzheimer’s.
Emilio remembers his first love, Margarita (Valeria Schoneveld – young version). He has an episode of forgetfulness whilst at dinner at Julia’s with her husband, Felipe (Nacho López) and their daughter, Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell). A few days later he decides he wants to find Margarita(Isabel Requena).
Is it any good? Live Twice, Love Once (Vivir Dos Veces – original Spanish title) Is a lovely, heartfelt film with winning performances from the entire cast. Martinez is excellent as the failing Emilio and Cuesta matches him as the eager to please Julia. Carbonell’s turn as the precocious Blanca is also a joy. The acting is good from all on show and the story and script are wonderful.
Spoiler territory: Emilio is sitting in a cafe remembering meeting his first love, Margarita. The waitress (Aina Clotet), brings him his breakfast. She remarks how he normally finishes his sudoku before she brings him his breakfast. Emilio tells her that it is called a magic square and the Japanese only think they invented it.
Emilio goes to pay her for the meal as he is leaving but she reminds him that he has already paid. He goes to see a doctor, Catalina (Maria Zamora). She tells him that she is going to ask him some questions. Emilio is brusque with her. Catalina remains relaxed. She asked him a series of simple questions plus some maths questions. Emilio answers all of the questions perfectly.
Emilio begins ranting at Catalina, saying that she thinks he is losing his mind because he could not finish his magic square that morning. Catalina looks totally confused. He goes to see a specialist, doctor Rodriguez (Manu Valls), who tells him about the region of his brain that holds memories. He has signs of Alzheimer’s. The doctor explains there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Emilio recalls his first conversation with Margarita.
Rodriguez asks if he can speak to a family member. Emilio tells him he has no family. As the doctor accompanies Emilio out of the office, he is greeted by Julia. She is surprised to see her father with him. Emilio is forced to confess he has a daughter.
Julia, a saleswoman of medical stationery, asks her father why he did not tell her about the appointment as she works in the hospital. He tells her she does not work there, she is only a saleswoman. Julia invites her father to dinner.
At the dinner, her unemployed husband-cum-life coach, Felipe and daughter, Blanca, are in attendance. Felipe tries to get his daughter to put her phone down, encouraging Emilio to talk to her. He tells her he has Alzheimer’s. She says she knows. Blanca does not put her phone down.
Julia suggests her father come live with them. Emilio does not like the idea. Blanca is also opposed to the idea, especially when her mother says that he will share her room. Julia asks Emilio why won’t he let her help him. He tells her that she is annoying. Julia leaves the dinner table.
Felipe goes and finds his wife in the kitchen with a cigarette. He stops her smoking, forcing her to say why she feels she needs to smoke. She tells him that she wants to be a good daughter and have her father see her as such.
Julia tells her father that he can live own his own terms but he has to get a mobile phone so as she can keep in contact with him. Emilio says he does not like them nor does he know how to use them. She tells him that Blanca will help him. At his home, Blanca finds a whole collection of phones. Emilio tells her that her mother has tried to have him carry a phone before.
Emilio tells Blanca that she does not have to show him how to use a phone as her mother would not know. Blanca tells him that her mother knows everything. As she shows him some things on the phone, Emilio gets more curious about the device. Blanca tells him that he can find out about anyone through the phone. She searches for him to prove it, reading about his life and career on the internet.
Emilio asks her to look up Margarita. Blanca finds her but cannot find an address. She does find out that she was in Navarra. The next few days, Emilio goes to the cafe for breakfast as usual. He is getting confused more often. The waitress sees him sitting outside of the cafe looking around, oblivious to the fact that he is a regular visitor there.
Felipe drops Blanca to school. Blanca sees her friend, Laura (Martina Garcia) and goes to talk to her. Laura’s mother (Cristina Rodriguez) gets into the car with Felipe. She greets him amorously. Blanca, who has forgotten her homework in the car, turns back and sees the two of them in the car. Felipe sees his daughter looking at him and crashes the car.
Emilio goes to see the doctor again. This time, Julia is with him. The doctor asks him the maths questions again. Unlike before, Emilio is not as certain. A panicked Julia prompts him, giving him the answers. Emilio eventually answers the questions but he is not convincing. Later, he tries to find Margarita’s address. He decides he is going to go and find her.
Blanca catches him in his car and works out that he is going to try and find Margarita. She tells him that she will help him. As they drive, Blanca creates a Facebook profile for him. Julia calls. It is a video call and Emilio does not want her to know he is driving. Emilio goes to a petrol station. Whilst in the station he has an episode, forgetting who he is and who Blanca is. The petrol attendant wants to call the police but calls Julia instead. Julia comes and gets them. Emilio has put the wrong type of fuel in the car so the family are forced to stay overnight in the town.
An angry Julia wants to know where Emilio was going. He tells her he was going to look for the love of his life. She tells him that her mother is dead. Emilio tells her that it was not her mother. As Julia and her father discuss his lost love, Felipe tries to get back into Blanca’s good graces by buying her a new phone, Julia having confiscated her old one. Unimpressed by the phone’s specifications, Blanca ignores her father.
Emilio asks Julia to help find Margarita. Julia does not want to betray her mother’s memory and refuses. Later on, in the evening, Julia discovers a boy on Blanca’s phone. The next day she asks Blanca about him. Blanca, angry that her mother had looked at her phone, tells her that her father is having an affair. Julia tells her that she knows but ignores it to keep the family together.
At breakfast, in a cafe, Emilio has another episode, pouring oil into his coffee. As Julia tries to wrest the oil from him it spills onto her blouse. They buy a couple of t-shirts from the cafe. Emilio’s car is returned and Julia takes the wheel. She has a change of heart and decides to help her father find Margarita, they head to Navarra. Emilio’s memory continues to deteriorate.
They head to a retirement home in Navarra in the hope of getting some information about Margarita. The nurse, Paqui (Amparo Oltra), refuses to give them any information. They stay overnight in Navarra. Julia tells Felipe that when they get back to Valencia he is to move out. Felipe tells her he had an affair because wanted to get caught and for her to leave him.
Blanca comes into the bedroom. Emilio has disappeared. Julia goes out, into the night, looking for him. She gets a call, he has gone to the retirement home. Paqui gives Julia Margarita’s address. The next day, a resplendent Emilio is taken to the address given. Margarita is no longer there, having moved out some years before. The present occupants do not know where she has moved to.
They return to Valencia. Emilio’s brain is getting worse. As Felipe moves out, he moves in with Julia and Blanca. Blanca uses a photo of Margarita on Facebook and finds her. She is told by a boy she met on Facebook, Pau (Hugo Balaguer) that she can only get the address if she meets him. He will be at a wedding in Valencia.
Blanca is nervous about meeting him as she has not told him that she has a disability. They all go to the wedding party. The boy Blanca goes to meet turns out to be someone other than who she thought it was. Pau had been using pictures of his cousin. Emilio starts dancing to Julia’s surprise. He then goes and sings. Blanca finds out that Margarita lives in Valencia.
They go to the address. They are greeted by her husband, Lorenzo (Antonio Valero), who is somewhat protective of her. Emilio gains entry to the house by asking to use the bathroom. He finds Margarita in the garden. She does not remember anything. She suffers from senile dementia.
Lorenzo finds Emilio with his wife. She is sewing an infinity sign into a piece of cloth. Emilio tells Lorenzo that it is an ‘L’ for Lorenzo. Emilio gets worse, having less lucid periods. Julia has to put him in a home. In the home, Emilio sees Margarita and the two, having both forgotten their previous lives, meet as though for the first time. The end.
Live Twice, Love Once is beautifully directed by Maria Ripoll, from a script by Maria Minguez. There are no wasted moments in the film with every scene pushing onto the next seamlessly and the actors breathing real life into the story. As I mentioned before, the acting is topnotch from all concerned but it is the central performances from Martinez and Cuenta that are the heart of the film.
Martinez’s performance will really strike a chord with anyone who has seen a parent or elderly relative struggle with memory loss. One absolutely believes his performance and it is heartbreaking to watch him slip from a brilliant mind into a shadow of his former self.
Cuenta, trying to be a good daughter, good wife and good mother is a role that many women will recognise. The fact that she also is also the sole breadwinner in the family makes you really feel for her as she tries to keep some sort of normalcy in her life. Carbonell’s Blanca shows the adaptability and resilience that only children can, with their fearlessness and lack of life experience, taking her grandfather’s failing health in her stride as well as her parents splintering relationship.
Ripoll directs the film at a nice pace and there are lovely editorial flourishes, with visuals overlapping contrasting soundbites and information. Mingquez’s script tells a coherent story whilst wasting very little time on exposition. Everything you need know is in the script but no one ever tells you, it is all just worked beautifully into the story or visuals.
At an hour and forty, Live Twice, Love Once is a nice length for a film and does not overstay its welcome, giving one a satisfying ending even if it is slightly sad. Live Twice, Love Once is definitely worth a look. Lovely.