Yo La Busco (literal translation I Look for Her, official movie title translation The Night She Moves) is a debut effort from writer and director Sara Gutiérrez Galve. Following the course of an unorthodox friendship over the course of 24 hours – and in particular, its impact upon one of the parties involved – the film offers a glimpse inside a Barcelona that tourists rarely see and an insight into the human psyche that is both honest and touching.

The story concerns itself with Max (Dani Casellas), a hedonistic life model who shares his spacious apartment with Emma (Laia Vidal), his closest friend. The pair have such an intimate bond that they think nothing of urinating in front of one another or mercilessly teasing the other party, while mutual nudity is so commonplace that it’s easy to mistake their friendship for something more romantic. Indeed, if their dynamic is confusing to the audience, it’s understandably even more so for Max.

Is he aware of his feelings for Emma? Almost definitely, but the point is hammered home when it is revealed that she will be moving into a new apartment with her boyfriend – tomorrow. Just like that, Max’s world falls apart, and although he refrains from overt displays of emotion, it’s clear that he’s deeply affected. Keen to shake it off, he ventures out into the Barcelona night seeking adventure and romance, embarking on an unpredictable escapade which will take him into some unusual quarters.

The journey is billed as “strange and transforming”, and while that certainly is an apt description, those looking for fireworks and non-stop action should keep moving. Yo La Busco’s strength is in its realism; while Max’s adventures are a little extraordinary, they’re also a little mundane – and that’s what gives them their charm. His disillusionment with his situation and the humanity of the people he meets (sometimes in a positive encounter, sometimes a negative one) is relatable and raw, as Gutiérrez holds back from dressing up the plot with contrivances or coincidences.

The film’s ponderous nature is accentuated by the desultory journey upon which Max embarks, but anchored by a charismatic performance from Casellas in the lead role. Playful but sensitive, frivolous but deceptively deep, Max is a fascinating character to accompany on his journey. Meanwhile, Vidal imbues Emma with the kind of uneasy negligence we might expect from someone who doesn’t want to hurt but deep down realises it is unavoidable.

But while honest and entertaining, the film never really compels like it should. Perhaps it’s because Max’s night is such an remarkable one; perhaps it’s because Emma is a spikier and less sympathetic foil to his idealism and indolence; perhaps it’s because the aimlessness of the entire extravaganza leaves the audience feeling a little underwhelmed at the final curtain. But despite its flaws, Yo La Busco is still a well-scripted and well-shot piece of cinema that highlights Gutiérrez as one to watch for the future for sure.

Screening as part of the Catalan Film Festival 2020