Carla's Song (1996) Review

Director: Ken Loach

Starring: Robert Carlyle (George Lennox), Oyanka Cabezas (Carla), Scott Glenn (Bradley), Salvador Espinoza (Rafael), Louise Goodall (Maureen), Richard Loza (Antonio), Gary Lewis (Sammy), Subash Singh Pall (Victor), Stewart Preston (McGurk), Margaret McAdam (George's Mother), Pamela Turner (Eileen), Greg Friel (Keyboard Player), Anne Marie Timoney (Warden), Andy Townsley (Taxi Driver), Alicia Devine (Hospital Sister)

1978, CIA war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

I am probably going to spoil this movie for you, so don't read the review. But on the other hand, it will spare you a bout of anger against the movie if you do.

Well, this would have been a good movie, except for the ending. My wife and I hated the ending and I felt betrayed by whoever wrote and/or approved the crappy thing.

Here is poor Carla (Oyanka Cabezas) who has come to Glasgow, Scotland all the way from Nicaragua and its horrors during the fight to overthrow the Somoza government and the CIA sponsored and trained Contras. The poor Sandanista girl from a very poor family suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the brutal treatment of her Sandanista boyfriend at the hands of the Contras. She also suffers from depression, we can only assume from the guilt she should feel after having left Nicaragua after the terrible event without finding out what was the ultimate fate of her boyfriend.

But, anyway, now she is in Glasgow earning money from street performances as a dancer. It is said that she wanted to raise money for the Nicaraguan cause. (But then, why choose Glasgow -- hardly the richest city in Europe. And where would she have gotten the money to buy the ticket to go to Glasgow? And how could she think that the little money she would earn as a street performer could help the Nicaraguan cause? It's all quite illogical.)

Now Glasgow bus driver George (Robert Carlyle) is a great guy -- spunky, rebellious and kind. He takes a liking to this Nicaraguan girl who he sticks up for while she is being harangued by a bus inspector for not having a bus ticket while riding the bus. Now, George doesn't know it, but he is going to have his work cut out for him with this very mentally damaged young woman. And she is no help, because she will tell him nothing. He only learns that something terrible has happened by listening to her screaming during her nightmares.

George finally is able to find out that it is her former boyfriend, Antonio, who she is obsessing about in her nightmares. So, being the regular guy he is, he buys two tickets for Nicaragua, saying that the only way to rid her of her demons is to head back to her home country and find Antonio. Now that makes a lot of sense. Let's take a young mentally ill woman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder back into a war zone. Now doesn't that sound like a good idea? No, not really. (And George can't really plead ignorance about Nicaragua because his sister told him the place was a bloody mess.)

So back into the maelstrom Carla goes with George tagging along. She introduces George to an important man from her past, an American, Bradley (Scott Glenn) working for peace, who the director makes look like an ass-hole because he seems to be picking on George without any logical justification. (It actually only makes sense later. Yes, a war zone is a terrible place to bring a woman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and George does deserve a kick in the ass.)

I am going to try to not spoil the ending. But I have to say that we was robbed. Only a woman who is suffering from PTSD and depression from extreme guilt feelings could make the decision she made. Or maybe the writer/director had political motives beyond the logic inherent in the facts of the story.

And I write this while agreeing with the analysis presented in the movie. I hate US policy in the third world just as much as the next decent person, and probably more. Yes, the US does not care about countries like Nicaragua, unless they try to overcome the great class and racial divides in their society; for this threatens US business interests. The US primarily cares about the interests of its companies who make a lot of money in the third world and who, in turn, donate a great amount of money to Republican party candidates for office. It's a vicious cycle. And when the US gets concerned, people start dying. The US killed between 2-3 million Vietnamese during the Vietnam War (holocaust-like numbers), but have they ever apologized for this savaging of a people to stop the great supposed threat of communism? Hell, no, and probably never will. (They said in those days that we were fighting in Vietnam because we did not want to fight the communists in California. As if! But Vietnam has not proven to be any real problem for the US following the American defeat in that country.)

Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D.

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