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The Little Switzerland

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
The Little Switzerland Movie Poster Image
Offbeat Spanish satire has language and sex.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 86 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

People don't need to pretend they're something they're not in order to bring meaning to their lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A man loves a new woman but sleeps with his old girlfriend. Fickle villagers are willing to change their cultural affiliation at the drop of a hat.

Violence

Men plant a bomb in a church. Before it goes off someone throws it in a field, where it's reported that sheep are killed. A man sells weapons he found in a ditch on the black market.

Sex

A woman's breast is seen briefly. A couple is seen kissing, about to make love in their underwear. A man who is in love with another woman sleeps with his old girlfriend.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bastard," crap," ""piss," "ass," "hell," and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol and smoke marijuana and cigarettes. A bartender offers customers "speed, coke, meth, and marijuana."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Little Switzerland, a 2019 Spanish comedy, makes a satirical statement about ancestral and cultural Spanish identities that will probably seem unfamiliar to most American audiences.  A fictional Spanish village has been trying unsuccessfully to join the Basque Country (a separate cultural and political entity within Spain) but when an archeological discovery dating to the 15th century is made at the local church, the mayor and townsfolk pivot and lobby to attain Swiss status, partly for tax purposes. Adults are seen kissing and a breast is seen. A man who is in love with another woman sleeps with his old girlfriend. Adults smoke cigarettes and marijuana and drink alcohol. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "ass," and "damn." Men plant a bomb in a church. Before it goes off someone throws it in a field, where it's reported that sheep are killed. A man sells weapons he found in a ditch on the black market.

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What's the story?

THE LITTLE SWITZERLAND of the story is Telleria, a town in Spain filled with villagers who have aligned themselves with Spain's Basque culture. The mayor (Ramon Barea) believes he has worked out a deal with the Basque Country administrators to be officially welcomed into Basque-ness, but a Basque emissary arrives for the celebration only to report that the Spanish government has nixed the deal. Gorka (Jon Plazaola), the mayor's son, returns to Telleria from his graduate studies in art history with his coworker Yolanda (Maggie Civantos), the woman he secretly adores. They are examining artifacts in the local church when Yolanda falls through the floor and discovers the 15th century tomb of Swiss hero William Tell's son. In the sarcophagus is a document declaring the town, named after Tell, as a canton of Switzerland. The town immediately turns its frenzied desire to be Basque into an equally futile and absurd quest to become a part of Switzerland, which is 600 miles away. Absurdity increases as townspeople suddenly don Swiss hats, play Swiss instruments, eat Swiss food, and start learning Swiss German in the enthusiasm to gain Swiss recognition. Gorka finds the courage to let Yolanda know that he loves her even though he's just slept with his old girlfriend Nathalie (Ingrid Garcia Jonsson), the mayor's assistant. For no good reason, locals plant a bomb in the church, as if destroying the tomb will end the Swiss nonsense. In the end, the Swiss dismiss Telleria just as the Basques did.

Is it any good?

This confusing, odd movie is unlikely to interest teens. The Spanish townspeople of The Little Switzerland are presented for the most part as petty idiots who long to be aligned with the Basque culture of Spain and then just as ardently switch their collective longing to a desire to become Swiss, and there's only so much time viewers are likely to want to spend time with idiots. A comic score accompanies the shenanigans, with jaunty tunes that make the foolish people seem even more foolish, so there really is no character to care about nor any outcome to wish for. 

Teens, like most who try to watch this, will probably be mystified by the fuss about the Basque and then Swiss yearnings. Perhaps a short course on the history of Europe could explain the nuances, but the quality of this movie is unlikely to inspire anyone to make the effort.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Spanish villagers would want to be part of another country. Do you think people need to feel special in order to feel good about themselves?

  • How does the movie present the townspeople? Are you encouraged to admire the villagers or see them as silly and petty?

  • How would the movie be different if it were trying to be serious about cultural pride?

Movie details

For kids who love to laugh

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