The faintest hint of “The Notebook” pops up in “Live Twice, Love Once (Vivir dos veces),” a wistful if somewhat strained Alzheimer’s romance from Spain.
Emilio (Oscar Martínez) is an elderly mathematics professor who isn’t quite ready to accept that he’s losing the mind that discovered a new prime number, back in the day. He grouses at the quizzing his Valencia doctor pushes on him, gets shorter and shorter with his answers until he’s asked about his family.
“I have no one,” (in Spanish with English subtitles) he fumes.
And then his daughter Julia (Inma Cuesta) shows up. She’s a pharmaceutical rep. And it takes a lot of prodding from her to get him to admit he just forgot he has a daughter.
Emilio spends his days struggling to do Sudoku puzzles that used to give him so much pleasure, and reminiscing about the girl he met on the beach in the distant past. Margarita loved literature. He loved math. It was never going to work out.
Or was it?
Now, as his mind fades, he’s desperate to make that connection. And in comedies of this sort, he’s going to need a co-conspirator. That would be his foul-mouth, cell-phone obsessed granddaughter, Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell). She’s a tween with a pronounced limp, and isn’t above making the odd “lame” joke to make others uncomfortable or get her out of a jam. She knows what’s up with grandpa, but isn’t cutting him any slack over it.
“I’m surprised you don’t know you’re as smart as you are.”
And she might have the means of finding Margarita, either via the new Facebook profile she’s setting up for the old man, or Google search. It’s in her hand.
“A cell phone is God!”
Director Maria Ripol (“Tortilla Soup”) and screenwriter María Mínguez set us up for a standard issue road picture, a quixotic quest in Grandpa’s ancient Citroen in search of the missing “love of my life.”
Then they set out to upend those expectations and replace them with less predictable situations, peppered with the usual obstacles and under-developed supporting characters.
The Mexican love song “Perfidia” wafts through “Live Twice, Love Once,” a tune about faithless love — a bit of ironic commentary about the woman grandpa married instead, and buried. That would be Julia’s mother, Blanca’s grandmother.
It’s a rather harmless confection, hanging on a likable turn by Martínez and a few amusing moments from young Miss Carbonell.
But the comic and romantic payoffs are limp, and the picture wanders on past its climax. And for all the efforts at tripping up expectations, it takes you precisely where you expect it to. Eventually.
MPAA Rating: unrated, some profanity
Credits: Directed by Maria Ripoll, script by María Mínguez. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:41