(Nico and Dani)

                Second films can sometimes prove problematic for directors,  particularly if the first effort
        win prizes and receives critical acclaim. Oftentimes the pressure can cause the movie maker
        to go astray and the end results prove disappointing. There are rare occasions when that
        doesn't happen, and
Nico and Dani (which was released outside the USA under the title
Krampack, a Spanish slang word for a sex act) is one of them. In turning what was a
        single-setting play about college students into a summer romance featuring teenagers,
        director Cesc Gay and fellow screenwriter Tomas Aragay have fashioned a sweet
        depiction of a summer that has repercussions on the friendship of two teenage boys.

                Nico (newcomer Jordi Vilches) accepts an invitation to visit with his best friend
        Dani (Fernando Ramallo) while Dani's parents are off on a tour of Egypt. They are a study
        in contrasts. Nico is dark, gangly and somewhat ordinary looking. Dani has blond angelic looks
        and a more athletic build. Each clearly is at that stage when their hormones are in overdrive,
        and indeed Nico makes it clear that he has one goal for his vacation -- to lose his virginity.
        In the meantime, boys will be boys and if a friend offers a helping hand ... well, so what?

                They are not completely left to their own devices. The housekeeper  Marianne
        (Myriam Mezieres) and Dani's tutor Sonia (Ana Gracia) arrive daily and when Dani is in his study
        sessions, Nico toys around with fixing a motorcycle he finds in the garage. In their spare time,
        the boys make plans to hunt, go to the beach and generally hang out. Neither had anticipated
        meeting up with nubile local girl Elena (Marieta Orozco) and her cousin Berta (Esther Nubiola),
        both of whom seem to also be suffering from the same sort of raging hormones. Nico senses
        that he can accomplish at least one of his goals and soon, he is spending more and more time with
        Elena, which leads to problems.

                Dani, you see, is struggling with his sexual orientation and Nico is the object of his affection.
        The almost nightly ritual of mutual masturbation begins to give way to other acts as Dani tries
        to orchestrate a deeper level of their relationship. Nico, for his part, goes along for the momentary
        pleasure, always fantasizing about Elena or another beautiful woman.

                A dinner party at Dani's house with Elena and Berta results in the film's most controversial
        scene: what appears to be a date rape. In the hopes of "loosening" the girls, Nico and Dani drug
        the wine and ply the girls with alcohol and marijuana. Berta and Dani retire to a trailer/guest house
        while Nico and Elena begin to make out. Berta is feeling the effects of the drugs, lies down and
        passes out. Dani undresses her and then makes a halfhearted attempt at intercourse. After he
        gives up, he goes back into the house and won't leave the potential lovers alone, which eventually
        leads to a rift with Nico. While Nico draws closer to Elena, Dani becomes involved with Julian
        (Chisco Amado), a writer known to both his father and his tutor Sonia. Their involvement brings
        out a jealous streak in Nico.

Nico and Dani deals rather frankly with issues of teenage sexuality but the material is never
        presented in a salacious or leering manner (as it is in any number of American comedies). Some
        have criticized the film for its portrayal of Dani as a sexual manipulator, but one could easily argue
        that such people do exist; whether you want to see them in a film is a personal decision. Fernando
        Ramallo plays the character as a charmer who is aware of his looks and uses them to his advantage.
        In that way he's no different from one of the central characters in the TV production "
Queer as Folk",
        so the archetype exists. Jordi Vilches, a former circus performer, captures the awkwardness of the
        teen years with a masterful skill. The performances of the two leads mesh well and play off one
        another to believable effect and director Gay should be commended for facilitating that. The
        supporting players all make fine contributions as well.

                Undoubtedly, audience reaction will vary depending on how forgiving one wants to be of
        Dani and his machinations. Some may simply be grateful that
Nico and Dani doesn't devolve
        into an
American Pie-style raucous comedy but instead remains a gentle, fairly straightforward
        depiction of adolescence.

Rating:                 B
© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.