'The volunteer': when you collaborate with an NGO for vital needs and generosity

Higher themes are often well hidden in seemingly smaller stories. At least in the movies. Thus, the last two Spanish films with relevance around international cooperation and refugees have ended up being essentially individual stories that transcended that particularity. Mediterranean, by Marcel Barrena, despite narrating the beginnings of a giant of the non-governmental organization such as Open Arms, maintained its best virtues in the portrait of a man in struggle with himself. And something similar happens with the volunteer, new feature film by Nely Reguera after Maria (and the others), in which the filmmaker returns to the solitude of the woman from her remarkable debut, but in a radically different territory: from the thirty-year-old woman who goes out of her way for her own and who seems gangrenous by (self) demands, to the woman with ample training, recently retired doctor, who decides that it is time to escape from her monotony to do her bit in pursuit of the most disadvantaged human being.

On that round trip to Greece to collaborate with an NGO that works in a refugee camp, the journey between illusion and bewilderment is drawn. An itinerary in which the character played by the magnificent Carmen Machi, full of good intentions, fights with the already regulated forms of the organization, in which her spontaneity, her affection and her (initial) common sense do not fit. .

Sometimes it gets a little discursive, and with a text that does not escape the cliché: the fault lies with “the system”, in the version of the NGO professionals, compared to the responsibility of “the politicians”, in the opinion of the just-arrived; ideas that remain in mere notes without developing. However, in return, Reguera orchestrates an interesting existential scaffolding in which the need for the cooperation of that doctor with too busy children is given by an obvious desire to help, but also by some vital deficiencies related fundamentally to loneliness.

The final drift of the character, groundbreaking, is the one that elevates a work until then (almost) irreproachable, because Reguera never falls into too many insecurities, but perhaps a short flight, since it seems to lack a certain degree of ambition: in the situations, in the texts of those situations and in the staging, simply functional. Now, the last stage of the character arc is formidable. Almost without words, it serves to redefine the work of the aid workers, to confront the necessary debate between collective help and individual help, and to extract the hidden side of altruism, solidarity, and even of even bigger words, such as kindness, affection and pride.

It is there, in that final image of an apparently defeated character, when the volunteer he enters into an excellence to which he has hitherto never approached. Because that apparent failure is actually the victory of true experience and self-judgment. And the collapse of that easy idealism consisting of taking generosity on vacation from time to time.

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the volunteer

Address: Nelly Reguera.

Interpreters: Carmen Machi, Itsaso Arana, Délia Brufau, Arnau Comas.

Gender: drama. Spain, 2022.

Duration: 99 minutes.

Premiere: June 10.

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