Ernest Hemingway has been dead for 44 years, and yet the Nobel Prize- winning novelist is still influencing the lives of young American men.
Case in point: Kevin Noland’s film “Americano,” a Hemingwayesque coming-of-age tale set in modern-day Spain.
As Jakes Barnes and friends do in “The Sun Also Rises,” Noland’s characters are in Pamplona to, among other things, run with the bulls. Those other things include falling in/out of love, watching bullfights, drinking wine, questioning where their lives are going, fly-fishing and skinny-dipping in cold Spanish lakes, and listening to an American expatriate (Dennis Hopper in full “Apocalypse Now” mode) do a rap on what it means to live.
The trio of Americanos that we follow consists of Chris (Joshua Jackson of “Dawson’s Creek” fame), Ryan (Timm Sharp) and Michelle (Ruthanna Hopper). Chris is enjoying his last days before he has to return home to a corporate job that will offer him a good salary and company car. Ryan and Michelle are the mismatched couple who can’t decide whether they have a mutual future.
In the midst of a fiesta, Chris bumps into Adela (Leonor Varela), and their shared attraction results in his buying bullfight tickets. Once there, with Ryan and the reluctant Michelle in tow, Chris finds himself sitting next to Adela and a bit sickened by the sight of the bloody fight in the arena below.
But culture clash doesn’t necessarily dampen the chance for romance, and so the four end up at the club overseen by Hopper’s eccentric expatriate. And later, after a night of drinking, the three Americans follow Adela on bicycles to her home. A bit of lip-locking follows, along with Chris’ growing confusion, shown mostly through notes Chris writes in his journal.
Noland, a Spokane native, takes a short cut here and there (camping equipment shows up out of nowhere), but the strengths of “Americano” are easy to see. Noland’s camera ably captures Pamplona street life. The young cast, especially Varela and Sharp, is refreshing. And Hopper is always a pleasant kind of curiosity.
Most of all, though, Noland doesn’t beat us over the head with The Big Message. The ending of his film is left open, just as life in your early 20s is. Hemingway knew that, if not in Spain then certainly out on the Big Two-Hearted River.
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