“El Planeta” is a Spanish comedy of financial errors that opens with a conversation. Leo, played by the film’s director, Amalia Ullman, is a fashion student who meets a middle-aged man to discuss his sexual rather than sartorial services. Leo’s coffee date explains his likes and kinks, and she explains his worth. His date laughs in response. In his Spanish city of Gijón, he explains, oral sex can cost 20 euros, not the 500 euros he proposed. In “El Planeta”, even sex work cannot earn a living wage.
After her failed attempt to earn an honest wage, Leo returns to the apartment she shares with her mother (played by Amalia’s real mother, Elle Ullman). There is no food in the fridge, bills are not paid, and neither mother nor daughter has work. Instead, they get by through gifting, donning fur coats to dine at restaurants where they run the unpaid tab. Leo is conflicted, but regardless of the consequences his mother is happily committed to the scandal. She argues that food is always free, at least in jail.
It’s a dry comedy that receives amusing recognition rather than Bailey laughs, and Ullman, as a first-time feature director, makes the clever decision to set a quirky tone. The film was shot in black and white, and music has been used sparingly. Even as Leo and his mother present Aishwarya’s presence with bespoke gowns and designer T-shirts, they are caught in a world of austerity. Like its grifter characters, “El Planeta” conveys a hint of luxury, but it is not luxuriant, creating an experience that is more than just intellectually satisfying.
not evaluated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Walking Time: 1 hour 19 minutes. in Theaters.