Both a moving story of old age and a juicy portrait of skeletons in an aristocratic family closet, the film also touches upon themes of love, honor and friendship. Fernando Fernan-Gomez plays the pivotal and eponymous grandfather, the Count of Albrit, who has returned to his village partially blind and almost penniless after losing his fortune in Peru. Full of wisdom about his state-he is given to observations like 'man is a prisoner of time'-he ultimately is able to confront the many problems and plots that confront him in his ironic refugee-like state back in his native land.

For starters, the Count must tangle with his daughter-in-law, the beautiful Lucretia (Cayetana Guillen Cuervo), who is also the mother of his two beloved granddaughters (Christina Cruz and Alicia Rozas). Before his arrival back in Spain, the Count's son died and a mysterious letter alerted the Count to the fact that one of the grandaughters was not fathered by the son.

Lucretia is determined that the secret not get out. To this end, she recruits the village locals-no strangers to corruption and cronyism-in a plot to stonewall the grandfather's pursuit of the truth. But the Count is as wise as he is old. When the town's corrupt religious and political leaders-a kind of ad hoc junta-whisk the grandfather away to a monastery to silence him, he escapes back to the village and continues to unravel the mystery of which granddaughter is his real heir.

Soon, he has an unlikely ally in the person of his granddaughters' wretched, impoverished teacher, a man abandoned by his family and who is so discouraged with life he begs the Count to help him commit suicide. Somehow, the two old men nurture each other and form a bond. The Count learns which is his real granddaughter and Lucretia proves she's not the beast she appears to be.

Miraculously, The Grandfather, at almost two-and-a-half hours, doesn't play long. The lavish set design, costumes and lush scenery keep the eyes occupied. The acting is fine all around, especially on the part of Fernan-Gomez and Guillen Cuervo as the dueling in-laws. There are also soapy twists and maneuverings to keep up the momentum. The film also offers some subtle surprises, including those that touch on the filmmaker's obviously deep-felt notions of love and honor.

--Doris Toumarkine