Directed by Spanish filmmaker Fernando León de Aranoa, The Good Boss (OV: El buen patrón) follows a week in the life of Julio Blanco (Javier Bardem), the boss of a scales factory. Upon learning that a special awards committee will be visiting the business, he aims to have everything working perfectly. In order to do so, he ultimately ends up meddling in the personal lives of his employees and friends.
At first glance, Julio is your typical boss – motivating, attentive and regards his employees as family. However, his attentiveness slowly becomes intrusive as he encounters issues with several individuals, namely Miralles (Manolo Solo), an old friend but struggling at work due to marital issues; and José (Oscar de la Fuente), a disgruntled ex-employee who resorts to picketing outside of the factory after his recent dismissal. Julio’s cordiality and assumed understanding of their respective problems present him as a concerned boss, but as the week goes on, the film presents a becomes clear that his actions are mostly to ensure the success of the committee visit, and therefore, his company.
To this end, Julio tries to quietly reason with Miralles’ wife Aurora (Mara Guil) and essentially force José to stop protesting with varying degrees of success, causing him to unravel with unpredictable results. As it takes place over a week, de Aranoa drags Julio’s dilemma to exasperating effect His inability to resolve these lingering issues feeds his arrogance, which is implied through the multiple industry awards for his company displayed in his home (rather than the factory) and the reciprocated attention of new marketing intern Liliana, which sees newcomer Almudena Amor deliver a confident and grounded performance.
As the film goes on, de Aranoa incorporates light humour in his screenplay to put an almost incredulous spin on Julio’s troubles to the extent that the audience questions his ability as a manager and he becomes a likeable anti-hero. The comedy in The Good Boss is heightened by the odd at-work mishap and Bardem’s subtle performance that sees him in one of his more conventional roles, as well as supporting performances by de la Fuentes and Fernando Albizu, who plays a long-suffering security guard.
For a film that stresses the importance of balance, The Good Boss offers enough drama and comedy to make a meddling boss an engaging protagonist while Bardem’s charming performance brings together a lighthearted endeavour of one man’s pursuit of perfection.
Director: Fernando León de Aranoa
Stars: Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Oscar de la Fuente, Fernando Albizu, Almudena Amor
Runtime: 120 minutes