EL BUEN PATRÓN

Spain

Synopsis

Blanco, a charismatic owner of a company that produces industrial scales in a provincial Spanish city, awaits the imminent visit from a commission which will decide their fate and whether they obtain a local award for Business Excellence: everything has to be perfect for the visit. However, everything seems to conspire against him. Working against the clock, Blanco tries to resolve his employees issues, crossing every imaginable line to do so, giving rise to an unexpected and explosive succession of events with unforeseeable consequences.

Director's Statement

Skillful, charming and manipulative, "the good boss" is the man with his finger on the scales, the puppet master pulling the strings for this entire performance. His company produces industrial scales, but the old two-plate model standing at the main entrance to the factory, is off-kilter. Blanco is a charismatic character, an advantageous player who shamelessly involves himself in the personal lives of his workers to improve the company’s productivity, crossing all ethical lines, and with no possibility of return. A character we can feel close to, despitehis unscrupulous nature. Perhaps a portrait of what we are, or what we fear to become.

Blanco stars in this tragicomic tale of a worn-out labor ecosystem, without heroes or villains, far from any Manichaeism. A biting comedy, dark gray, almost black. A corrosive look at personal and professional relationships within a family business employing some hundred workers.

THE GOOD BOSS is, in a way, the reverse angle shot of MONDAYS IN THE SUN, its shadier reverse angle. Whereas the former deals with unemployment, this film describes the precarious landscape of employment using similar aesthetic and narrative keys: a choral tale woven of stories that intertwine and interact perversely, traversed by the seductive personality of Blanco.

THE GOOD BOSS is a portrait of depersonalization and the deterioration of labor relations, a landscape of a time in which outdated concepts such as solidarity, ethics or the common good seem to have been erased from the employment map, only to be replaced by the logic of profit and precariousness. The imagery of the scales, a universal metaphor for Justice, frames the whole: Blanco tries at all costs to restore financial balance to his company, even if this means he has to tinker with the dishes.

I believe complex and artistically ambitious cinema is possible, one that leaves a record of who we are, of the moment in time in which we live; and that at the same time amuses, intrigues, and moves us, and which does so using humor, at times even being light-hearted, with an edge; but without renouncing engagement, truth or poetry. Cinema that examines the very roots of who and what we are in search of the hypothesis of what we will one day become. Cinema with an open window to the street, that deals with what’s happening outside on the sidewalks of the country where we live, in our homes, in our bedrooms, in our places of work.

Visually, THE GOOD BOSS seeks a transparent feeling of reality, without turning its back on a bright, sophisticated image. Pau Esteve’s cinematography elegantly portrays the cold, industrial tapestry on which the warmth of the characters and their conflicts is portrayed and highlighted. The language of the camera, symmetrical, horizontal and harmonious at first, a reflection of the perfect balance Blanco has achieved in his personal life, and in his factory, among his workers, becomes more dynamic and unstable as the footage progresses. The vertigo of camera in hand will replace the horizontality of the initial images, as it accompanies our protagonist’s drift.

This is something the music of the film also does; playful and friendly at first, seemingly light, it will unmask to the same extent Blanco does. The soundtrack by Zeltia Montes, is a prodigious musical rewriting of my script, a second skin of the film, which captures the complexity of its tone, its complex balance.

The action takes place on the industrial periphery of a provincial city, in its horizontal landscape of gray, indifferent industrial estates. Within the central warehouse of a factory, along its raised walkways. And in the workshops, black rubber and steel. Among the roar produced by heavy machinery, in which men and women with protective headphones toil. In warehouses and merchandise loading docks, cement ramps, pallets and articulated trucks. César Macarrón is responsible for this titanic task: that of breathing life back in to an immense closed factory on the outskirts of Madrid.

Meanwhile, a man with nothing left to lose is camped out in front of the installations of what was once his place of work, jeopardizing “The Good Boss”’ plans. The garishly colored banners and his tent break the gray monotony of the factory landscape, his supposed balance.

The best humor, the one that best resists the passage of time and crosses borders, is that which arises from drama, as it isn’t an interim solution: it speaks to us of human nature. It stems from that desperate worker shouting badly rhyming slogans through a battered old bull horn every time the boss enters and leaves the factory. Of his fragility, of his forced solitude, of his tragic lucidity. Other times it arises from tenderness: from his relationship with the security guard who stands watch over the factory entrance, who shares with him a surreptitious coffee and conversation, in fear of reprisal.

There is also humor in the amorality of the boss, in his scheming and excesses, as oneself is always the first victim of one’s actions. Blanco will not emerge unscathed from his deeds. The film grows darker with every decision the characters make. And so, without losing the smile, the last act of this story becomes a thriller, and then a tragedy.

Of all the challenges we faced, perhaps this one, the challenge of setting the right tone has been the riskiest. Humor and pain: the precise measure on each dish of the scales. Jealousy, abuse, betrayal, power, vassalage, rivalry, revenge, ambition, sex, and even death, all the grand themes of classical tragedy, fit inside the convoluted web of interests, pettiness, and ambitions of a small weighing scales manufacturing company that could be in any provincial city, anywhere.

This is its story.

Director's Biography

Writer, director and documentary maker, Fernando León de Aranoa has written and directed full-length features FAMILIA (1996), BARRIO (1998), MONDAYS IN THE SUN (2002), PRINCESAS (2005), AMADOR (2010), A PERFECT DAY (2015), LOVING PABLO (2017) and THE GOOD BOSS (2021).

As a documentary maker his work includes “IZBIEGLIZE (1995), CAMINANTES (2001), BUENAS NOCHES, OUMA (INVISIBLES, 2007), EL PAÍS DE LOS REFUGIADOS (2013), POLITICS, AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL (2016) and FEELING IT (2022).

Fernando has regularly presented his films at the San Sebastian, Berlin, Sundance, Cannes, Venice and Toronto festivals, among others. His work as a whole has garnered eighteen Goya Awards from the Spanish Film Academy, four of them for Best Director, three for Best Screenplay, and two for Best Picture. He has been awarded the Golden Shell at the San Sebastián Film Festival for Best Picture and the Silver Shell for Best Director, as well as three Fipresci awards from specialized critics, an Ariel from the Mexican Film Academy, two Donatello nominations from the Italian Academy and the Luis Buñuel award for Best Ibero-American Picture.

As an author, he has published “Contra la hipermetropía” (Debate, 2010) and “Aquí yacen dragones” (Seix Barral, 2013).

In 2004, Fernando set up his production company, Reposado.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Fernando León De Aranoa

Written by: Fernando León De Aranoa

Main Producer: Jaume Roures, Javier Méndez Zori, Fernando León De Aranoa

Cinematography: Pau Esteve Birba

Editing: Vanessa Merimbert

Production Design: César Macarrón

Costume Design: Fernando García

Make-Up & Hair: Almudena Fonseca, Manolo García

Sound Design: Iván Marín, Pelayo Gutierrez, Valeria Arcieri

Casting: Luis San Narciso

Cast: Sonia Almarcha (Adela), Fernando Albizu (Román), Javier Bardem (Blanco), Manolo Solo (Miralles), Almudena Amor (Liliana), Óscar de la Fuente (Jose)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Comedy 2022