Character driven stories I've seen recently

1. After the Wedding (2007) --A surprisingly down-to-earth melodrama. Starting in India, Jacob is a boarding school teacher for poor boys. To get funding for the school, he flies to Denmark (his home country) to meet with Jorgen, a successful businessman. Jorgen invites Jacob to his daughter's wedding while he mulls over whether to donate money to the school. At the wedding, Jacob realizes Jorgen is married to his old flame Helene and that the daughter is actually his daughter with Helene (of course). This has all the potential to turn ridiculous, but the interactions between the characters is so simple and honest, that it's hard to dismiss the emotionality of many of the scenes. The rest of the film deals with Jacob reacquainting himself with his old love, developing a relationship with his daughter, finding out why Jorgen had him come in the first place, and deciding where he is needed most.

Helene and Jacob reconnecting.

While the film has everything that could possibly happen happen, it manages to let its characters interact naturally and sometimes awkwardly to the point of discomfort. You learn to care about these characters because they're just good people trying to make the best of the situation.

2. Bella (2007)--One of those Epic Day movies. Nina is a waitress at a Mexican restaurant who gets fired for being late for the last week. Jose is a the chef at the restaurant and follows Nina after she gets fired to return a teddy bear she dropped on the way out. When Jose catches up to Nina, he finds out she's pregnant and has been having morning sickness, which is why she was late. The course of the rest of the movie has to be the most cathartic day ever filmed. Both of them air out issues they've been carrying for years, especially Jose's mysterious past. Through wandering the streets and visiting Jose's home, they learn a lot about each other and form a solid relationship that will impact Nina's decision about her pregnancy.
Nina and Jose at the beach. Note the beard.

The dialogue is sometimes too expository and the level of trust in each other is, for me, shockingly high, but the interaction is somewhat believable. There is no hook up; in fact, they barely touch on this most epic of days, which made their relationship so much more touching than most shown onscreen. This day was all about getting to know each other, and it's a pleasure to get to know them, too.

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