It looks like a bleak life for Carmen (Macarena García). She loses her mother and her bullfighter father (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is gored by a bull and made an invalid, all on the same day. But her grandmother raises her well—until her untimely death. Then, when Carmen is reunited with her father, she’s deliriously happy. Unfortunately, she still has to deal with her BDSM-loving stepmother (Maribel Verdú).

It doesn’t sound like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but writer-director Pablo Berger updates the Grimm tale to 1920s Spain and proves there are endless variations of the classic tale. Blancanieves is charming, a melodrama in the mold of a silent masterpiece.

Perhaps best of all, Blancanieves embraces silent movies without subverting them for its own purposes, unlike the inexplicably popular The Artist. The camera work and special effects feel of the period, and are used with love for the time.

All three leads are wonderful, with Verdú making a deliciously evil stepmother and García, a convincing bullfighter. And the ending is a stunner. Whether you find it hopeful or bleak depends on your point of view. And don’t drive yourself crazy; there really are only six dwarf bullfighters, not seven. Oh, and the music is great. 

Written and directed by Pablo Berger
With Macarena García, Daniel Giménez Cacho and Maribel Verdú
The Screen
104 min.