Shallow, sentimental and smug, this Spanish film had input from Ken Loach's long-time screenwriter Paul Laverty, which makes it hard to understand why it's so clunky and banal.
The story, loosely based on fact, concerns Laia (Echegui) an irritatingly well-meaning aid-programme volunteer in the Nepalese city of the title, whose attempts to establish a school are frustrated by corruption, caste prejudice and community resistance.
It would have been an interesting, if none too original, yarn if it had stuck to the point, but a welter of subplots makes it as episodic as Coronation Street: Laia's marriage to solve her visa problems blossoms into problematic romance; she becomes devoted to a lonely, unlucky girl; co-teacher Sharmila (Bhattarai) has domestic problems.
Laia seems wetter than she really is because the answers to her dumbstruck questions ("You mean the children won't come to school because their parents make them work all day?") serve as expository dialogue for us, but it makes her look astonishingly thick. She's also nauseatingly self-obsessed: when a woman who has drunk poison in despair at failing to deliver the male child her family expects hovers at death's door, Laia at her bedside whimpers "don't leave me all alone".
Echegui doubtless has a great future as the face of some perfume, but not as an actress, I fear. I kept wanting to take Laia up a mountain pass so I could push her off and put everyone out of their misery.
Cast: Veronica Echegui, Saumyata Bhattarai, Norbu Tsering Gurung
Director: Iciar Bollain
Running time: 104 mins
Rating: M (offensive language) In English and Nepali with English subtitles
Verdict: Beautiful scenery
-TimeOutBy Peter Calder Email Peter