Inspiration for the film was drawn from Domankiewicz’s own experiences, whose decision it was to make the film on a small budget, also taking on the role of producer. However, as to who should play the “broken-hearted Englishman” actor, Simon Pegg had his name written all over it but with absolutely no money to spare, Domankiewicz instead covered the role himself; allowing the recent acting training he had done to be put into practice.
Goya-winning editor, Nacho Ruiz Capillas of Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others, was said to have signed up to the project on the basis of liking what he saw – and you can see why. Unorthodox working methods were necessitated by a microscopic budget, consisting of a “flexi-crew”, which often came to no more than five or six people, as well as a handheld SLR camera, which took a minimum number of shots in between locations.
Whilst the plot features a lot of twists and turns, some a little bizarre and frankly over the top; the way the difference between Britons and Spaniards is dissected falls nothing short of perfect. For example, the difficulties incurred when David explains his dietary needs as a vegetarian; and the unnecessary politeness in spoken English.
Pictoral footage is used, an attempt to cover up a weak script. A similar technique was used in 2007 Irish musical film Once, a naturalistic drama, written and directed by John Carney but with more success. The general result though tends to distract the voyeur, and take them out of the story.
It was a shame that more Latin based music wasn’t made better use of throughout the film, as well as at the end of the film when the credits were rolling, while certain shots could have been captured more subtly on a tripod, as opposed to a handheld camera, inevitably causing the images to appear blurry and thus, displeasing on the eye. Poor editing spelt a shabbily made up storyboard, and the use of sound was not used to its best ability.
The intimidating boss David was played by Daniel Albaladejo, who clearly portrays the most promise out of all the actors. He displays traits not unlike those of Jean Reno but whose character was unfortunately not further developed. Meanwhile, and although some jokes were hard to bear, Domankiewicz would have fared better if his focus had been kept humorous, instead of switching to a formulaic love story, which was apparent from the word go.
The majority of the film’s humour comes via David, whose facial expressions are reminiscent of Robert Webb’s Jez in Peep Show. In contrast, a poignant moment in the film would be when Marisa, David’s ex-girlfriend, who, in all likelihood, is modelled on the stereotypical Spanish beauty Penelope Cruz, gives an analogy her psychologist passed on, that of her hard drive being wiped clean, and David’s still requiring more room for memory.
As an audience member you can feel somewhat hard done by, wishing that Domankiewicz had only been brave enough to steer clear of the cliched, Hollywoodised formula, but at least the true spirit of Madrid is brought to life in Tea & Sangria, where the street takes on a whole life of its own.