Little Ashes is the "little movie" best-known as the follow-up film of Twilight's breakout, megastar Robert Pattinson (the infamous, brooding Edward Cullen; but Harry Potter fans knew him even earlier as ill-fated hero, Cedric Diggory!). This small, character-driven drama was probably picked by Pattinson as an antidote to avoid being pegged and typecast by critics. Ashes is a relatively-loose biography "based" on the early life and times of the Spanish surrealist painter, Salvador Dali (Pattinson). Raised in the countryside, Dali's first exposure to an elite, cosmopolitan, cultured existence came to him after enrolling in the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid (a school of fine arts) and moving into student housing where he met and became quick friends with two other artistic, affluent, highly intelligent and remarkable students, Frederico Garcia Lorca (a writer/poet played by Javier Beltran) and Luis Buneul (an aspiring filmmaker played by Matthew McNulty). The trio of young artists quickly became very close, respected friends who ruled campus and dominated the social scene in Madrid. Together, they aspired to change the world. While it is known that Dali and Garcia Lorca shared a very passionate friendship, Dali had always denied (he died in 1989) the two ever had a sexual relationship; but Little Ashes decides to paint their picture as sometime lovers. This deepening friendship seemed to alienate and offend Buneul who decided to move to Paris as it was becoming the heart and pinnacle of European style and life. Growing uncomfortable with the ever-growing obsession (not "crazy" obsession, just a physical and emotional one) that Garcia Lorca continued to show toward Dali, Dali soon moved to Paris to meet back up with Buneul. Together, Dali and Buneul collaborated on Buneul's notorious, very first film -- the silent, surreal, avant-garde Un chien andalou. Garcia Lorca felt betrayed by his two friends believing the movie was putting him down (since the movie had nothing to do with either Andalusia or a dog; but Andalusia was the state Garcia Lorca called home).
There is falling out and some making up before Spain -- where Garcia Lorca still was residing -- fell into civil war (the Spanish Civil War). The movie is about three very talented, gifted young men who were the best of friends. It is also about love and loss, acceptance and understanding, and an uneasy social, political climate that didn't accept or tolerate ones who were different. It is common knowledge what happens to the three friends as any artistic history class would probably briefly touch up on any of these three individuals. The three male lead actors all did a fine job in Little Ashes. If Pattinson continues to make small, artsy films in between the big-budget Twilight saga, he could begin to win over another set of film-goers. I think the great performance of the movie belonged to Marina Gatell, who played Frederico's "girlfriend", Magdalena. Her love of Frederico was unconditional and it was beautiful and the actress did a masterful job pulling it off. I also enjoyed the brief history lesson the movie taught me because I knew very little in regards to Spain's civil war and the rise of Francisco Franco (granted, this didn't teach me much but it did pique me interest enough to make me research more on my own -- and that is ALWAYS good). As I said in the first line, Little Ashes is a "little movie". It is nothing great and there have been many more biopics made over the years that are more compelling and more factual; but Little Ashes successfully kept my attention and I did care for the characters on screen. Truth be told, this is not a movie for everyone: it can be slow and emotional and sad and trying but it is a movie one could walk away from having learnt something.