Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 6:35 am | Overcast 64º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Instructions Not Included’

This Spanish language film with subtitles is a wonderful parable of growth in self-less love

3 Stars — Thought-provoking

All of us begin life self-absorbed. Though we like to think that we mature out of that infantile perspective, the truth is that maturity is not automatic. Our experiences and the people with whom we share them give us opportunities to begin to care more about others than we do about ourselves. This important life lesson is the theme of Eugenio Derbez's film Instructions Not Included.

An experienced actor, director and writer, Derbez does all three in this Spanish language film, along with the writing skills of Guillermo Rios and Leticia Lopez Margalli.

Derbez's charm as lead character Valentin lies in his expressiveness and vulnerability. A player who beds the tourists who are vacationing in his hometown of Acapulco, Valentin has no real job or responsibility. But when Julie (Jessica Lindsey) shows up on his doorstep with a baby, suddenly his sexual escapades are about someone other than himself.

Not even remembering her name, Valentin doesn't realize her intentions when she borrows $10 to pay the cab. Leaving the baby in his arms, she flees for the airport and her home in Los Angeles. Thus begins Valentin's shared life with adorable Maggie (Loreto Peralta at 7 years of age).

Having followed Julie to L.A. to find her and return baby Maggie to her, Valentin serendipitously finds himself a job as a stuntman. This high-risk job is all the more unexpected because of his father Johnny Bravo's (Hugo Stiglitz) unorthodox way of preparing him for life by purposefully scaring him to death. Explaining that his fears are like a wolf that he must stare down, the film allows us to experience his fears by mystically depicting wolves. Having to take responsibility to provide for his daughter, Valentin faces the wolves daily and bravely overcomes his fears.

Maggie's charm is in her belief in her father, who gives her everything she wants to make her happy. The expectation that she would be spoiled is not true; she is playful, joyful and trusting. Writing a letter every week telling her of her mother's fictional escapades and love for Maggie and addressing it from her mother, Valentin covers up Julie's self-absorbed decision to abandon her daughter.

Until one day Julie reappears. That begins the journey for Julie to move beyond herself to love for her daughter, but it is a difficult path with many unexpected turns on the road.

Although we all know that living for one's self is not only immature but also empty, we often are brought into maturity kicking and screaming. But once we arrive, we realize that the life we lived before doesn't even begin to compare with a life of self-less love. That is a message that is not only proclaimed by artists like Derbez in this film but by the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The transformation of Valentin from a completely self-absorbed hedonist to a deeply compassionate father is heartwarming and gives us a glimpse into the remarkable power of love to heal the soul.


» How did you discover the importance of selfless love? Who was instrumental in that growth in your life?

» When Valentin's father scared him in order to give him courage, he was attempting to prepare him for life. How did your parents prepare you for the dangers of life?

» The final crisis that brought Valentin and Julie together opened the door for healing. What has occurred in your life to bring healing to the relationships you have that were broken?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >