Watching the Spanish thriller “The Legacy of the Bones” is a bit like having a conversation with an elderly relative.
Endless exhausting digressions, a phone book full of characters with speaking parts, scenes that merely underline what’s already been established all of which end with a shout of “Stay FOCUSED. Get back to the POINT.”
And of course that “point” is obvious as the opening scenes can make it.
A prologue establishes a persecuted minority in the North of Spain — the Cagot. If the Basque have a discriminated-against beef with Castilian domination, the Cagot have a legitimate grievance with blood all over it.
And to the historical record of discrimination (think “Gypsies,” outcasts, denied the right to live in town, etc.), this film — based on a Dolores Redondo novel — adds “persecuted for witchcraft.”
We see witch accusations and witch burnings in the early 17th century.
Cut to the present day, when churches are being desecrated wit human arm bones, murderers are dismembering (always an arm) their victims, and then killing themselves before they can be prosecuted.
“Tartalo,” they scribble on notes intended for the detective, Amaia Salazar (Marta Etura of “The Impossible” and “The Man with a Thousand Faces”).
Someone, some group of some thing is hellbent on settling old scores with the Holy Church, the government and this detective, who grew up in this Pamplona-to-San Sebastian region, and is invoking the name of a cyclops of Basque mythology.
Det. Salazar is A) pregnant and B) has an old family name which ties her to the place and to the distant past. She has a mother in the hospital and a no-visible-means-of-support husband (Benn Northover) who becomes the primary caregiver after she has her baby.
Then there’s the aged Auntie (Itziar Aizpuru) who reads Tarot cards and has a bad feeling about this.
Yes, those are tidbits of FOREshadowing. You don’t introduce a baby and a possible madwoman into the mix if you’re not baking a Hansel & Gretel cake.
Salazar is lectured by her superiors to not “make too much fuss (in Spanish, with English subtitles — or dubbed into English) about this” because they “don’t want” these church desecrations, buried bodies, missing bones and references to an ugly past to “make the papers.”
Meanwhile, people keep getting cut up, or cut themselves up, leaving notes or messages to Salazar as they do.
“Tell her I’m glad she’s back! TARTALO!”
“Legacy,” titled “Legado en los huesos” in Spanish, is a frenetically languid movie. All these locations — murder scenes, churches, offices, prisons, hospitals, morgues, relatives’ homes, a near-Biblical flood — to dash to, lots and lots and LOTS of supporting characters who hissing “Tranquilo” (calm down, take it easy,,BE QUIET) to Salazar.
But she’s getting progressively and UNDERSTANDABLY more freaked out. Nightmares, allusions to her family’s history, DNA wrinkles, a hint of the supernatural and/or a death/dismembering cult, a newborn baby that her nagging do-nothing husband insists she stop, come home and nurse.
You know somebody or something’s gonna want that baby. You don’t have to read a single subtitle to “get” that.
Whatever he felt he owes the novel, director Fernando González Molina owed the viewers a heartless trimming of the script and thinning of the cast.
Movies like this invite me, and you, to do a rough cut re-edit in our heads. We know where it’s going, if not every single digression it’s going to take. Padding the picture with traveling scenes, conversations that don’t advance the plot, all this DOMESTIC stuff (sex scene included) — just means they’ve got around 75 minutes of a chasing witchcraft movie trapped in 121 minutes of Netflix streaming time.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, bloody violence, sex
Cast: Marta Etura, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Carlos Librado, Imanol Arias, Francesc Orella, Itziar Aizpuru and Benn Northover
Credits: Directed by Fernando González Molina, script by Luiso Berdejo, based on the Dolores Redondo novel. A Netflix Original.
Running time: 2:01