It’s all too easy to be lured in by the attractive leads, catchy songs, eye-catching set designs, and enticing message of self-empowerment of Sounds Like Love (Fuimos Canciones). The thing is, though, the movie just doesn’t have enough engaging plot, well-written dialogue, or interesting characters to stand up to the scrutiny of being watched for an entire hour and fifty minutes. It’s not that it’s entirely terrible or anything. It’s more like a dessert that looks amazing, but tastes just okayish. Really, you’d be much better off watching the series Valeria, which is also based on novels by Elísabet Benavent, but with far more compelling results.
Maca (María Valverde) informs us that she’s twenty-nine years old and has been a pringada twenty-eight of those years, but she’s changing. Maca breaks the fourth wall a lot during the movie, and often at very awkward times, like when she’s banging her weekly hookup, but I’m getting ahead of myself. She wears high top black converse with jeans rolled at the cuff, a fitted top, a black leather jacket, and bright red lipstick, so you know that calling herself a loser is probably pretty subjective and not how she’s necessarily seen by other people. It’s certainly not how she’s seen by her two best friends Jimena (Elisabet Casanovas) and Adriana (Susana Abaitua), who clearly adore her to pieces.
Jimena is far and away the most interesting and electric character in the entire movie, and I think they should have considered reframing the story so that it centered on her. Eleven years ago, her boyfriend Santi was killed in an accident, and ever since she’s been looking for his reincarnated spirit in the very alive flesh of every man who crosses her path. Sooner or later though, they all do or say something that Santi wouldn’t, and she has to start searching all over again. Whether she’s openly trying to seduce the chiropractor (Ignacio Montes) she trailed to his office because he had a skateboard similar to Santi’s or provoking Maca by playing back her desperate 4am voicemails, Elisabet Casanovas breathes life and empathy into an otherwise often stagnant movie.
Adriana, who works in a bridal shop, has convinced herself that her marriage is perfectly fine, but that she’s likely asexual and that’s why she doesn’t find pleasure in her marital sex life. She and her husband have tried a million ways to spice things up, but everything has fallen flat. That said, Adriana’s story arc and sexual awakening are perfectly predictable from the moment the words “un triple” fall from someone’s lips. Not that I’m making light of it. It’s important, and I wish the movie had made more room for her story.
Maca—after having her young, hopelessly romantic heart shattered when her boyfriend of five years, Leo (Álex González), left for academic opportunities in Boston without so much as a goodbye—now bangs a hot, but otherwise pretty useless guy (Carlo Costanzia) once a week. When his credit card gets declined while they’re out for pre-gential smashing drinks, he tells her that now she can feel empowered by paying. She narrows her eyes at him and then looks over her shoulder at us and says, “but he’s cute, and I don’t need more than that.” (It’s one of the few times her asides actually work.) She goes on to tell us that she doesn’t want to waste her energy on any of the shit that comes with dating because being coupled up is like a “mental black hole.” Instead, she takes herself out on dates and fucks him once a week. She tells us this while she’s panting and stripping down in the car with the guy, and it works less well as an aside.
Maca works for a sociopathic influencer named Pipa (Miri Pérez-Cabrero), who pays little and expects everything in exchange. I almost stopped watching the movie when Maca—while sitting in the bathroom, stuffing a muffin in her face because Pipa is on a diet where she fasts for twenty hours a day and insists no one eats in front of her—refers to herself as a slave and says something about how slaves don’t complain. Really?!? I… Friends, it’s really very simple: Don’t refer to someone being like slavery unless they are actually LIKE slavery. Employment as an assistant to an influencer who treats you poorly, but who pays enough to cover your rent in a large city and for you to pay the tab for drinks with your once-a-week trip to bangtown? Definitely not comparable to slavery. It’s just a crappy job.
Anyway, I did keep watching, which is how I found out that Maca runs into a nicer influencer named Raquel (Eva Ugarte) who very much wants to help Maca network with other people so she can get a job where she’s not exploited. (See, exploitation is a fine way to describe what Pipa is doing to Maca.) BUT, it turns out that Raquel is dating Maca’s ex-boyfriend Leo who has come back to town and will now be teaching at the University! The DRAMA! Then we watch a ton of flashbacks to when Maca and Leo met and when they were dating and how in love they were and then how broken she was when he left and how he never apologized for leaving.
And honestly, I’m not at all sure how the fuck we or she are supposed to forgive Leo after all that, especially when he’s a an absolute ass about it when he first arrives back in Madrid. He keeps saying that Maca should be over it and should act like an adult and that it all happened years ago. HE WENT AND GOT ON A PLANE TO THE UNITED STATES WITHOUT SAYING A WORD WHILE SHE WAS WAITING IN AN APARTMENT WITH A REALTOR FOR HIM TO SIGN A LEASE!! She has every right to still be angry and bitter about it all these years later. I don’t know that she needs to do things like show up in his classroom and disrupt things, but we all have our own ways of coping. Years of therapy might be how you get over that kind of abandonment and learn to trust someone again. This man is clearly so entirely not healthy for her, and I don’t care how attractive he looks when he finally comes around to admitting his mistakes and making a real apology for what he did to her in the past. (Very. He looks very attractive because he knows how to use his Genetically Blessed Face.) It just feels emotionally manipulative. Plus, it’s clear they both just want to relive their old relationship instead of really moving forward. Jimena and Adriana at least have the good sense to tell Maca she’s being a fool, which leads to them all getting into a huge fight, which leads to them all having realizations and making the Big Changes their lives have been needing. If only it were that easy in real life.
There’s a lot I’m leaving out of this summary, but less because it would be a spoiler and more because it just doesn’t really matter. There’s a lot of time wasted with Maca’s asides, which are sometimes not annoying, but mostly just awkward and jarring. Also, there are several scenes where there are two versions of Maca talking to the actual Maca as she tries to make a decision. Or present Maca watching or interacting with past Maca and/or past Leo. It all adds a lot in terms of running time to the movie, but very little in terms of actual depth and understanding. The movie likely would have been better served if they had committed fully to making Maca, Jimena, and Adriana co-leads and done away with a lot of the flashbacks, fourth wall breaking, and Maca-cloning. There could have been a lot more room to build the story of the three women’s friendship, which felt short-changed in the current version of the movie. We could have learned more about Adriana’s emerging sexuality. We could have just seen more of Jimena, which couldn’t be a bad thing. And, more than anything, we could have had more time away from the romance between Leo and Maca, which I just couldn’t buy into after learning about their past.
Anyway, just when you think Maca has actually done the things that will give her actual independence from her toxic relationship with Leo and personal and professional growth, she spouts some stuff about if this were a rom-com, this is how it would end and [SPOILER] Leo shows up again and I yowled and gnashed my teeth and then the credits rolled.