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Bad Education (Spanish: La mala educación) is a 2004 Spanish drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Starring Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Daniel Giménez Cacho and Lluís Homar, the film focuses on two reunited childhood friends and lovers caught up in a stylised murder mystery. Along with metafiction, sexual abuse by Catholic priests, transsexuality and drug use are also important themes and devices in the plot, which led the MPAA to give the film an NC-17 rating.

Bad Education
La mala educacion film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPedro Almodóvar
Produced by
Written byPedro Almodóvar
Music byAlberto Iglesias
CinematographyJose Luis Alcaine
Edited byJosé Salcedo
Distributed byWarner Sogefilms
Release date
  • 19 March 2004 (2004-03-19)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
  • Spanish
  • Latin
Budget$5 million[2]
Box office$40.3 million[3]

The film was released on 19 March 2004 in Spain and 10 September 2004 in Mexico. It was also screened at many international film festivals such as Cannes, New York, Moscow and Toronto before its US release on November 19, 2004. The film received critical acclaim, and was seen as a return to Almodovar's dark stage, placing it alongside films such as Matador (1986) and Law of Desire (1987).


In 1980 Madrid, young film director Enrique Goded is looking for his next project when he receives the unexpected visit of an actor looking for work. The actor claims to be Enrique's boarding school friend and first love, Ignacio Rodriguez. Ignacio, who is now using the name Ángel Andrade, has brought with him a short story titled "The Visit" hoping that Enrique would be interested in making a film out of it giving him the starring role. Enrique is intrigued since "The Visit" describes their time together at the Catholic school and it also includes a fictionalized account of their reunion many years later as adults.

"The Visit" is set in 1977. It tells the story of a drag artist and transgender woman called Zahara, whose birth name is Ignacio. Zahara plans to rob a drunken admirer but discovers that the man is her boyhood lover Enrique. Next she visits her old school and confronts Father Manolo, who abused her when she was a boy. She demands one million pesetas from him in exchange for halting publication of her story "The Visit". The story is set in a Catholic boarding school for boys in 1964. At the school, Ignacio, a young boy with a beautiful singing voice, is the object of lust of Father Manolo, the school principal and literature teacher. Ignacio has found his first love and cinema in the company of Enrique, a classmate. One night, Manolo discovers them together and threatens to expel Enrique. In an attempt to prevent this, Ignacio gives himself to Manolo. The priest molests Ignacio, but expels Enrique nonetheless.

Enrique wants to adapt Ignacio's story into a film, but Ángel's condition is that he plays the part of Zahara, the transsexual lead. Enrique remains skeptical, for he feels that the Ignacio whom he loved and the Ignacio of today are totally different people. He drives to Galicia to Ignacio's mother and learns that the real Ignacio has been dead for four years and that the man who came to his office is really Ignacio's younger brother, Juan.

Enrique's interest is piqued, and he decides to do the film with Juan in the role of Ignacio to find out what drives Juan. Enrique and Ángel start a relationship, and Enrique revises the script so that it ends with Father Manolo, whom Ignacio was trying to blackmail to get money for sex reassignment surgery, having Ignacio murdered. When the scene is shot, Ángel breaks out in tears unexpectedly.

The film set is visited by Manuel Berenguer, who is the real Father Manolo, who has resigned from Church duty. Berenguer confesses to Enrique that the new ending of the film is not far from the truth: the real Ignacio blackmailed Berenguer, who somehow managed to scratch together the money but also took an interest in Ignacio's younger brother, Juan. Juan and Manolo started a relationship and after a while realized they both wanted to see Ignacio dead. Juan scored some very pure heroin, so that his brother would die by overdose after shooting up. After the crime, the relationship disintegrates; Berenguer wants to continue the relationship with Juan, but Juan is uninterested. Berenguer claims that he will never let Juan go, and Juan threatens to kill him if Berenguer continues to pursue him. Berenguer attempts to blackmail Juan for his part in the murder of Ignacio.

Enrique is shocked and not at all interested in Juan's weak vindications for what he did to his brother. Finally, before he leaves, Juan gives Enrique a piece of paper: a letter to Enrique that Ignacio was in the middle of typing when he died.

In the epilogue, it is mentioned that Enrique releases his film later and achieves great success. Despite the grief and guilt of his brother, Juan also achieves success, but was later relegated to television work. Berenguer dies in a hit-and-run (caused by Juan, who was being blackmailed by Berenguer, and thus fulfilling his promise made earlier in the film).



García Bernal was required to display a convincing Castilian Spanish accent before being cast.[4]

After New York Times reporter Lynn Hirschberg[4] stated that Bernal had a falling out with the director over the film’s content, the actor defiantly wrote in response that nothing was further from the truth.[5] Bernal and Almodóvar had different ideas on the type of 'inner transvestite' and Bernal's performance.[6]

According to Almodóvar, he worked on the screenplay for over 10 years.[2]


The film opened in the 57th Cannes Film Festival in 2004,[7] the first Spanish film to do so.

Box officeEdit

The film opened theatrically in the United States on 19 November 2004 in three venues, earning $147,370 in its opening weekend, ranking number 30 in the domestic box office.[8] At the end of its North American theatrical run (its widest release being in 106 venues), the film had grossed $5,211,842 in the United States and Canada, and $35,062,088 overseas ($7,356,224 in its home country of Spain), making $40,273,930 worldwide.[3]

Critical receptionEdit

The film received critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88% of 144 reviews were positive, with an average rating of 7.55/10. The site's consensus states: "A layered, wonderfully-acted, and passionate drama."[9] On Metacritic, the film has an 81 out of 100 rating, based on 34 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[10]

Ann Hornaday from The Washington Post wrote "To watch Bad Education is to revel, along with Almodóvar, in the power of cinema to take us on journeys of breathtaking mystery and dimension and beauty."[5] Marjorie Baumgarten from the Austin Chronicle wrote “With Bad Education, the great Almodóvar delivers the finest movie of his career.”[5] Peter Travers from Rolling Stone wrote “A rapturous masterwork.”[5]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Edelman, Lee (May 2017). "Learning Nothing: Bad Education". differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. Duke University Press. 28 (1): 124–173. doi:10.1215/10407391-3821724.


  1. ^ "LA MALA EDUCACION - BAD EDUCATION (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 13 April 2004. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b De La Fuente, Anna Marie (4 November 2004). "Almodovar puts 'Education' to use". Variety. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Bad Education (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. 26 April 2005. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  4. ^ a b Bradley S. Epps and Despina Kakoudaki (Editors) All about Almodóvar: A Passion for Cinema, p. 286, at Google Books
  5. ^ a b c d Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Bad Education (La Mala Educacion)". Gay Essential. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  6. ^ Brigitte Peucker (Editor) A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder, p. 134, at Google Books
  7. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Bad Education". Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  8. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 19-21, 2004". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. 22 November 2004. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  9. ^ "Bad Education (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Bad Education reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 24 November 2015.

External linksEdit