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Review: Slacker Spaniard takes on the Catholic Church in ‘The Apostate’

Alvaro Ogalla and Marta Larralde in the movie "The Apostate."
(Breaking Glass Pictures)

Watchful, serious and failing university student Gonzalo (Álvaro Ogalla) has just the solution to his crisis of expectations: get his name stricken from the baptismal records of the Catholic Church. How can he be his secular, conscientious self and attack life on his terms if some controlling religious order stamped its brand on him as a defenseless infant?

In Spanish-Uruguayan director Federico Veiroj’s serenely inquisitive, mildly cheeky character study “The Apostate,” Gonzalo’s battle with a cagey bishop (Juan Calot) and a church he sees as a stifling bureaucracy is the one pressing issue he feels he can solve most explicitly. Elsewhere, he lusts for his emotionally turbulent cousin Pilar (Marta Larralde), argues with his family, flirts with the sexy single mother (Bárbara Lennie) of a child he’s tutoring and generally behaves like a scruffy, impetuous, immature soul.

There’s always the feeling that Veiroj — who likes offbeat music cues (tinny soundtracks from old propaganda newsreels, Prokofiev) and small flirtations with fancy (there’s a nudist colony interlude) — is going to tip into full Bunuel. But a shot of nuns behind computers acting like file clerks is about as irreverent as it gets.

Instead, with his casually intense, nonprofessional leading man (Ogalla is also a co-writer), Vieroj prefers a more ambling, unhurried tone of serio-comic, malcontented restlessness. It’s a movie that ultimately may mean more to those raised in heavily Catholic cultures, but it has an engaging prickliness as a satiric peek into the life of a brooding idealist.

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‘The Apostate’

In Spanish with English subtitles

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

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Not rated

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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