Instructions Not Included
Rating: This is an enchanting film that is as funny as it is meaningful. Sure it is in Spanish, but that’s what Columbus spoke, wasn’t it?
For those of you who are reluctant to see foreign language films with English subtitles, I can only encourage you to go see the fantastic Mexican film Instructions Not Included. It will remind you that personal flaws are a necessary by-product of the human condition.
Here, Director Eugenio Derbez also plays Valentin, an unemployed Acapulco playboy dedicated to nothing other than getting laid. A fun-loving guy with few goals in life, he is the spitting Mexican image of Warren Beatty’s reputation 40 years ago.
However, his life turns upside down when Julie, a former lover played with a smarmy warmness by Jessica Lindsey, leaves a small child (Maggie) in his apartment. After telling Valentin that he is the father, she gets in a taxi and leaves in tears.
Failing to hunt her down, Valentin takes Maggie on an illegal trip to Los Angeles in the attempt to find Julie. Dancing on the edge of desperation, he is able to find unexpected work as a Hollywood stuntman following a sensational scene that involves him saving his tiny daughter from drowning by leaping from a very high hotel balcony.
The film quickly spans Maggie’s first seven years, and father and daughter grow extremely close. She follows him to movie sites, acting his translator as he literally puts his life in danger, and they find immense reward in each other.
There are numerous genuinely funny scenes in this movie, not the least of which is daddy’s beautiful next door neighbor who he frequently visits to assist with her “indoor plumbing”. He also turns his condo into a large child’s playroom, and you grow nearly as close to him as his daughter.
But just when you think that Instructions Not Included is an enjoyable family comedy, tragedy strikes. While I can’t go into it without ruining the film, you draw the conclusion that Valentin is told that he is dying because of an untreatable illness. In the process, Lisa and her gay partner appear from New York to play a role in her abandoned daughter’s life.
Everyone in the legal profession realizes what happens next as Julie resorts to the courts in New York to gain custody of her daughter. Given that she is now a lawyer with a major New York firm, Valentin risks losing his beloved child rather than tell the truth about his medical condition.
While you dance on the edge of hating Ms. Lindsey, you really can’t fault her rebirth. On the other hand, as she tangles with Valentin in Court, you are left with a smug distaste for preening divorce lawyers given the image portrayed by her elderly counsel.
What happens in the end brings a stunning twist to the entire film. While Valentin is reminded of his foolish father who tried to expose him to absurd moments of potential harm in the attempts to get him to overcome fear, he learns from his enchanting daughter that no life comes with Instructions Included.