Among its other virtues, “Lo mejo de mi” — “The best of me” — merits praise for the sly joke the title plays on its audience. The trailers and the publicity stills for this 2007 Spanish film, with its young and attractive couple, along with the title, create the impression of a romantic comedy, or romantic comedy-drama.
Which it is, in a sense, but the “best” alluded to in the title is not the heart, but rather a different vital organ – the liver. There is also another “best”, revealed at the conclusion of this modest feature by writer and director Roser Aguilar.
And the operating word is “modest”, from its unusually short length for a feature film – 78 minutes – to its simple story with its low-key drama. Even the unexpected discovery of, and encounter with, the boyfriend’s “other woman” resists going the way of opera, or even soap opera. It almost goes without saying that even the sex scenes are in the realm of what in North America is known as “PG” — in other words, Roser Aguilar seems to be consciously defying many of the cliched conventions one finds in adult-focused cinema.
That hardly means that “Lo mejor de mi”, currently playing at the Centro Cultural La Moneda, is nothing more than an empty exercise in minimalism. Rather, in this instance, the restraint effectively expresses the feelings in the creatively original story executed by Roser Aguilar with collaborator Oriol Capel. Raquel and Tomás are first seen playing cute and cuddly under the sheets, both about 30, and attractive, and as we soon find out, both pursuing successful white-collar careers.
They seemingly have it all, but it is not too long that the audience finds out that all is not perfect for this pair. Aguilar shows Tomás in bed with another woman, whom he has been dating all along. Though he informs her that their relationship is ending, this sets a mood of unease for the scenario over Tomás not quite living up to our initial impression of him.
Then a complication – and the crux of the narrative – ensues. Tomás suddenly falls ill; he has a serious case of hepatitis C, and without a new liver, his chances of survival are uncertain. Raquel volunteers to sacrifice half of her own liver, a decision which is not taken lightly even by the medical team supervising Tomás’ treatment, who inform her that the procedure might result in failure, and even Tomás has sober, perhaps guilty, concerns.
In her own process of soul-searching, Raquel develops a friendship with a male colleague, a radio programmer with a seemingly warmer and more congenial personality, and the suggested hint of romantic overtones between the two, along with her discovery of the other woman, only serves to make Raquel’s decision all the more difficult.
But with the histrionics held in check, what surfaces is all the confusion, doubt, and fear felt by our protagonist, who ultimately experiences an evolution of sorts, not unlike that of Henrik Iben’s Nora in her illusionary Doll House. The great irony here is that at the beginning of the film, Raquel comes across as the sort of model of a “free”woman that Nora longed to be, which only proves that, as the French say, the more things change…