A teen fantasy about a romance between a bad boy with a good streak and a good girl with a bad streak, simple-minded, disposable “Three Steps Above Heaven” is too eager to please. Playing like a two-hour jeans commercial, the pic exists solely to sell itself to early teens seeking vicarious rebellion via a mixture of motorbikes, cheap emotion and costly marketing, but its manipulations may be too obvious even for its intended aud. First weekend B.O. at home on the back of a strong media campaign was excellent, leaving “Heaven” likely to open its gates in Iberophile territories.
Pic shifts the setup from Luca Lucini’s same-name 2004 movie(itself an adaptation of Federico Moccia’s cult novel) from Italy to Barcelona. Hache (Mario Casas) rides bikes, does lots of pull-ups and is emotionally damaged. Babi (Maria Valverde) is a wealthy but disobedient high schooler.
After an initial meeting at a set of traffic lights, they meet again at a party that quickly devolves into a riot after Hache starts a fight, which he does about every 10 minutes. No matter; the die is cast, and Hache is smitten. Babi is more hesitant, but succumbs under his relentless pressure.
Hache’s propensity for violence means constant brushes with the law. Slowly, he becomes more tender, Babi more rebellious. At first, modern lass Babi seems to have chosen him only as a means of losing her virginity, but the plot eventually regresses to a standard boy-meets-girl trajectory.
The reasons for Hache’s borderline psychopathy, shown in an inane flashback, are psychologically flimsy and have nothing to do with poverty or class. Screenwriter Ramon Salazar (also an accomplished helmer) has excised all references to unpleasant social realities from the pic’s earlier sources, so the only clue that Hache is an underdog is the fact that he doesn’t have a cell phone.
Casas, terrific recently in Paco Cabezas’ “Neon Flesh,” has a hunted, rebel look, hard muscles and the energy required for the part. Valverde, who’s shown real acting chops elsewhere, has little to do here but react to Hache’s excesses and parade about in product-placed underwear. Otherwise, there’s something for every kid to identify with or against in a cast that includes Hache’s fun-loving, goofy sidekick Pollo (Alvaro Cervantes), Babi’s excitable younger sis Dani (Nerea Camacho) and their uptight mother Rafaela (Cristina Plazas). The only real depth and gentleness in the pic comes from Jordi Bosch as Babi’s well-meaning father.
Pacing is fast, editing slick. The pic is very glossy indeed, taking staples like a couple on the beach at sundown or a thrilling bike race and stylizing them into total artificiality. This is recognizably contempo Spain, but even the city’s outskirts at night look unfailingly beautiful, especially in the rain. Pic does deliver some resonant standalone images, such as Hache striking fruitless blows at his bike.
Project’s canniness is shown by the marketing of its Spanish title as the easily textable “3MSC,” although the onscreen title is “Tres metros sobre el cielo.” Musically unimaginative soundtrack furthers the thought that there should be a ban on other films using Alphaville’s “Forever Young.”
Three Steps Above Heaven
Production: A Warner Bros. Pictures release of a Zeta Cinema, Antena 3, Cangrejo Films, Globomedia production in association with La Sexta, Canal Plus. (International Sales: Antena 3, Madrid.) Produced by Francisco Ramos, Mercedes Gamero, Daniel Ecija. Executive producer, Juan Moreno, Nicolas Garcia. Directed by Fernando Gonzalez Molina. Screenplay, Ramon Salazar, based on the novel by Federico Moccia.
Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Daniel Aranyo; editor, Irene Blecua, Veronica Callon; music: Manel Santisteban; art director, Patrick Salvador; sound (Dolby Digital), Albert Manera, Alvaro Lopez; costume designer, Loles Garcia. Reviewed at Cines Princesa, Madrid, Dec. 7, 2010. Running time: 118 MIN.
With: With: Mario Casas, Maria Valverde, Alvaro Cervantes, Marina Salas, Diego Martin, Nerea Camacho, Pablo Rivero, Cristina Plazas, Jordi Bosch.
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So it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a foreign film – my favorite category for sure – and since I’ve seen Three Steps Above Heaven (or merely Tres Metros Sobre El Cielo) a couple of times and I know that some of you might like a good ol’ cliché-ish love story, I’m gonna introduce you to this Spanish romantic drama that made every woman on the Balkans go bananas for Mario Casas. One of my friends introduced me to the movie and she said “if you don’t believe in true love, you will now” – oh really?! Before you start believing that her statement is true, I’m gonna burst your bubble and say that 1) Three Steps Above Heaven doesn’t portray true love, and 2) movies don’t equal reality (in this case, thankfully so). And I don’t mean to sound like an anti-love person because I am not – I love love. I just don’t love love movies. However, I’m objective and I’ll try to give credit where it’s due although this movie will make it quite a challenge.
Three Steps Above Heaven is about two young people from two different worlds – Babi is an upper-class girl with strict parents and Hache is a rebellious bad boy who loves motorbikes races and hates his parents. One day, Hache randomly spots Babi in a car and yells “ugly!”, and a few days later it turns out that they have friends in common and they are both invited to the same party. After a lot of what borders to harassment from Hache’s part, the couple fall in love but Babi’s parents don’t approve. Although Babi and Hache’s lovestory seems ‘perfect’ throughout the movie, it ends semi tragically.
I must admit that, when I watched it for the first time, I enjoyed this movie, but it is very cheesy and predictable with many unrealistic elements, such as Babi’s friend Catina falling in love with a guy after catching him steal from her. As for the characters themselves, Babi is extremely annoying and a typical naïve teenage girl who, in my opinion, is both a shitty girlfriend and an ever worse friend. And although the movie wants us to feel otherwise, Babi doesn’t come off likeable. Hache is, as they would say in Spanish, a proper hijo de puta who beats up people for no reason but at least he has a problematic background story, so you kind of understand his behavior. However, what I absolutely despise about Three Steps Above Heavenis that, first of all, it justifies violence and men treating women with disrespect. When Hache calls Babi ‘ugly’ in one of the very first scenes, she gets a shy smile on her lips. So a guy needs to insult a girl to be with her? Not in my world. Secondly, this movie reinforces the stereotypes of men being violent, brutal and emotionless while portraying women as weak, too emotional and dependent. Hache harasses Babi numerous times but she keeps running back to him – and this is a recurrent behavior throughout the movie. What is supposed to be a romantic story is full of negative messages that need to be ignored if you don’t wanna get frustrated.
I also gotta give credit where it’s due, so I must say that Three Steps Above Heaven does contain positive things too that makes it a fine movie choice for a girls’ night. Although the characters are poorly written and the script is bad, the actors do a good job. I had seen Mario Casas in a Spanish comedy series Los Hombres de Paco where he was much younger and his talent was obvious – though his character was somewhat similar to the one in Three Steps Above Heaven. I have also seen him after this movie and he is destined to have a long successful career not only in Spain but internationally as well. I admit that he is easy on the eyes but why his character is being glamourized and praised by so many girls is beyond me. Apart from the cast, the photography, the soundtrack and setting are all beautiful – you get to see some amazing shots from Barcelona and that never disappoints.
Taking everything I spend so much time babbling about into account, I will give Three Steps Above Heaven two out of five clapperboards because of its cheesiness, predictable story, and wrong messages that are disrespectful to both genders. In my opinion as a big film fanatic, films should empower us in one way or another but this movie fails to do so. As I already said, if you decide to watch this movie, try to ignore the negative elements and at least watch it for Mario Casas’s performance and the beautiful Spanish language.