The Memory of Love (Film Review: “Live Twice, Love Once”)

A respected professor and grandfather who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s sets out on a road trip to find the woman he’s always loved, before he forgets who she is.

SnapShot Plot

The genial yet poignant Spanish dramedy Live Twice, Love Once is, despite its clunky title, an engrossing story about a brilliant man who comes to terms with his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in a way that comes as a shock to his daughter and her family. The story begins in flashback, as the now retired Math professor Emilio remembers a moment he shared with a beautiful young girl named Margarita, when he was a shy teen too devoted to his books to follow his heart. An entire lifetime later, Emilio (a widower of five years) leads a quiet, orderly life in Valencia with his days made up of simple rituals such as eating the same thing at the same neighborhood restaurant, while mastering an endless variety of ‘magic square’ math puzzles, akin to Sudoku.

Oscar Martinez’s Emilio is a gruff and impatient man whose brilliant career in Mathematics was capped by his sole discovery of a brand new Prime Number. When he’s given a devastating Alzheimer’s prognosis, Oscar is smart enough to see the equation on the figurative blackboard of his future. Together with his smart-mouthed granddaughter Blanca (played with confidence and perfect comic timing by newcomer Mafalda Carbonell) and her wizard-like proficiency on her smart phone, he concocts a half-baked scheme to find the long-lost Margarita to finally declare his love. Standing in their way is Emilio’s daughter and Blanca’s mother, Julia, an eager pharmaceutical salesperson trying desperately to hold her crumbling marriage together and maintain the illusion of familial stability, (mostly) for Blanca’s sake. Julia (in a luminous performance by Inma Cuesta) refuses to comprehend why her father would ‘betray’ the memory of her beloved mother by embarking on this odyssey to find a woman he hasn’t seen in over 50 years. . . until in a devastatingly simple statement he shows her his heart. So Emilio, Julia, Blanca and even Julia’s errant husband, Felipe join forces and in a road trip similar in feeling to that of the wonderful Little Miss Sunshine, they take off on a Google and Facebook informed road-map of discovery, trying to find the elusive Margarita while Emilio can still hold tight to her memory after all these years.

This annoyingly dubbed trailer doesn’t represent how well the film is captioned in English on Netflix. Apologies!

Parting Shot

Although some may argue that the ending of this film is ‘broadcast’ much earlier in the action, the twists and turns up until that final resolution still carry their own surprises and plenty of emotional heft. In fact, I felt that there were almost two distinct films within the movie: the first about Emilio’s relationships with his daughter and granddaughter deepening during their quest to find Margarita; and the second (devastatingly realistic) story of Emilio’s descent into the bottomless pit of cognitive decay. Tonally, that last segment of the film was surprising in its brutal honesty, but perhaps completely necessary for the emotional integrity of the characters’ journey together toward a shattering but completely resonant conclusion.

Directed with breezy assurance by Maria Ripoll from a comedic yet soulful script by María Mínguez, the film might have stopped at the parameters of Emilio’s character. And yet the hidden gem in this film resides in the character of Julia, and the impeccable performance of Inma Cuesta as she shows both an unflappable slapstick energy as well as one of the most heart wrenching demonstrations of a daughter’s love I’ve seen on film in a long time. So even if you think you’ve seen this story before, watch it for these superb performances and trust that your heart will thank you, even if you forget it years from now.

Live Twice, Love Once (Vivir dos Veces) is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer:

1 Comment

  • Piera Accumanno says:

    I just saw this and found it charming. Although it’s about the memory of his first love, the story is more about how, through his growing illness, his family gets stronger and closer. I love his granddaughter and her confidence. The fact that the grandfather was listening to her while not listening to his own daughter when she was growing up touches upon his growth. Ironically, the weaker his mind got, the more open his heart became.

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