Cannes Film Festival 2024: Day 7: Monday, 20 May: The Other Way Around (2024) (Volveréis)

The Other Way Around directed by Jonás Trueba is a glossy romcom in reverse with a deeper philosophy.

Non-separation Anxiety

by Alexa Dalby

The Other Way Around

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

People think Alexandra and Alexandro are the perfect couple. But after 14 or 15 years together, Ale (Itasa Arana) and Alex (Vito Sanz) decide to separate and to throw a big party to celebrate their separation. A kind of marriage in reverse. The Other Way Around is an anti-romcom. Its original Spanish title Volveréis translates as ‘you will return’.

Ale is a film director and Alex is an actor in her film. It had been her father’s (played by the director’s dignified father, filmmaker Fernando Trueba) idea – she remembers that he said in the past that endings as well as beginnings should be celebrated. Though when they tell him of their decision to follow his idea, he denies its significance and says it was just something he said.

They tell a series of friends, colleagues and neighbours, even the plumber, who react to the same almost word-for-word explanation (they insist they’re ‘good with it’) with disbelief, sadness or encouragement – nearly all of them think the couple has gone mad. But they will come to the party, symbolically in the future, on the last day of summer.

Paradoxically, the logistics of planning a separation party bring Ale and Alex closer together. They still get on: they look out for little surprise gifts for each other in the flea market, they can’t agree who should move out of their flat as they can’t find an equally good one. We can see they’re made for each other, two halves of the same person, and we wonder how long it will take them to realise, or if they ever will. Too long in this film. Rents and mortgages may be mundane factors of life as well as theories that need to be discussed and may be an influence.

The Other Way Around turns out to be the making of a film within a film. Throughout it often blurs the lines between film and life. The couple’s business is filmmaking, which makes artifice out of reality. It starts with the couple in bed agreeing that separation would make a good idea for a film. Later, after what seemed like a real-life scene between the two of them, we see Ale with her editor working on the scene we have just seen – a film with Alex in it. It gives another disorientating turn to your suspension of disbelief.

The Other Way Around is also a homage, with several nods, to filmmaking icons, chiefly Truffaut and the French New Wave – we see a visit to his grave in Montmartre. Ale is given an enviable set of predictive Tarot-like cards which use quotes from Bergman films instead of the usual Tarot. The only disagreement we see them have is about 10’s portrayal of women.

Visually, director Jonás Trueba plays with idea of duality. Ale and Alex are seen together but going about their separate lives – the screen is split and mirrors are angled. (He collaborated on the screenplay with the two lead actors.) Although they tell everyone it’s a mutual decision, it seems that it’s more dynamic Ale’s idea, and easy-going Alex goes along with it.

What matters, the film says, is the reassuring safety of repetition, not the uncertainty of recollection, and whether film or life is circular or linear. The film incarnates repetition in scenes, dialogue and philosophy (Kierkegaard). There’s a surprising admission from Ale and plenty of music/songs.

The Other Way Around premiered at Cannes in the Directors’ Fortnight on 19 May 2024 and also screens on 24 May. International sales are by Memento International and international representation by The PR Factory.

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