Moncho is a young boy whose life is perfectly happy - until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War threatens both his father and his favourite teacher.
The son of a republican father (Uriarte) and a religious mother (Blanco), Moncho (Lozano) is terrified of the local schoolmaster (Fernan Gomez). But, instead of being a tyrant, Don Gregorio opens his eyes to a world of wonder. Yet this bond is not enough to avert an agonising separation.
This rites of passage picture, providing a sunnily idealised portrait of a country on the cusp of self-destruction, recalls Fernando Trueba's Belle Epoque (1992). Just as that Oscar-winning period piece lacked depth beneath its surface charm, so Jose Luis Cuerda's chronicle combines chocolate-box nostalgia with the taste of political contention.
Gently paced, this is heritage at its most handsome and its most harmless.