Almost 20 years after The Girl of Your Dreams (La niña de tus ojos) Fernando Trueba follows up with the sequel The Queen of Spain. Set 20 years later in 1950s Spain under Francisco Franco’s authoritarian rule, the original Spanish cast of The Girl of Your Dreams is reunited here in another film within a film. This time the cast comes together for a Spanish-American co-production in which Macarena Granada (Penelope Cruz) returns from America to her homeland to portray Queen Isabella of Spain. She is reunited with old friends and lovers whose own trials and tribulations make up the many subplots of this ensemble film.

The Queen of Spain is everything you’d expect from Spanish cinema; an emotion-filled, animated, larger than life dramedy addressing the political backdrop of the times but not based on true events like its predecessor. It’s a flurry of dialogue, with skilled deliveries and good comedic timing. There are back stories that aren’t fully explained, but they’re not too hard to pick up on even if you haven’t seen The Girl of Your Dreams.

The goings on within the film production include several subplots and one unifying rescue mission that connects all the key characters. Yet despite all the multiple plotlines, one can’t help but feel the story is a bit thin, especially given the film’s 2+ hour running time. Character introductions, getting caught up on each character, and setting the scene justifies the first half of the film, but story pacing in the second half lags, leaving audiences to will events to unfold a bit faster. Alternatively, it might have been interesting to beef up subplots as the cast is captivating in their performances, with rich backstories and developed characteristics.

The American crew member characters are presented rather two-dimensionally by Trueba, comically portrayed fictional representations of classic Hollywood heavyweights. These inserts of inside humour can be perceived as cunning jokes, a bit over-the-top, or may be completely overlooked depending on the audiences’ knowledge of the Hollywood studio system of the time. In a film that’s already veering towards absurd humour, these additional characters fit in, but don’t wind up adding much to the film.

Despite story shortcomings, The Queen of Spain is enjoyable to behold from a visual perspective. With careful attention to production design and scene compositions, aspects of the filmmaking industry and political landscape of the times are subtly insinuated. Rich colours and grandiose sets in the studio contrast with the washed out palette of the labour camp in the Spanish countryside. It’s evident that The Queen of Spain was intricately crafted and an affectionate throwback, best targeted to those nostalgic towards The Girl of Your Dreams.

Is The Queen of Spain Essential viewing?

This film isn’t essential to see, but worthwhile viewing as a companion to The Girl of Your Dreams. It contains all the enjoyable elements of Spanish cinema but lacks in story, if you’re going to see it, be prepared to focus your attentions on other filmic elements to maximize your viewing experience.

The Queen of Spain opens Friday, August 25, 2017 at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas. Check their website for more information.

The Queen of Spain Trailer