Are Juan Pablo Villalobos and Valentina Based on Real People?

As we follow Juan Pablo Villalobos in Netflix’s Spanish film, ‘I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me,’ the man undergoes increasingly far-fetched and dangerous adventures, caught in a den of criminals. Although the young man moves to Barcelona with the intention of working on his doctorate thesis, an ominous criminal mastermind referred only to as “The Lawyer” derails all of Juan’s plans by entrapping him and taking control over his life. Thus, the young student’s life begins to crumble bit by bit.

Although Juan tries to spare his girlfriend, Valentina, the potential threat of her association with him, The Lawyer ends up bringing her back into the loop. As such, Valentina continues to be a key player as the film unfolds, bringing her own unique perspective to the tale. Therefore, due to the characters’ deep involvement in a story so rich in crime, Juan Pablo and Valentina’s connections to reality naturally come under suspicion.

Is Juan Pablo Villalobos Based on a Real-Life Author?

No, Juan Pablo Villalobos from ‘I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me’ is not based on a real-life person. Yet, the character’s origins remain deeply tied to the real-life author behind the eponymous novel that served as a basis for Fernando Frias’ film. Although the novel itself is also a work of fiction, it falls under the autofiction genre.

Autofiction, short for autobiographical fiction, is a genre of stories wherein the author intentionally bases characters and events after autobiographical aspects of their life. Nevertheless, these aspects are blended with fictional details and narratives, rendering reality only an influence over the piece of work. Therefore, Juan Pablo, the character explored in the film and book, is a fictional character based on the real-life author Juan Pablo Villalobos, who essayed the former’s story.

Alongside sharing a name, these two people, the fictional Juan and the real-life Villalobos, hold many other similarities. Much like Juan, Villalobos also moved from Guadalajara in Mexico to Barcelona for a few years to pursue his academic career. However, instead of a doctorate thesis on humor in the 20th century in Latin American literature, Villalobos did his doctorate in literary theory.

Within this trip to the Spanish city, Villalobos garnered a lot of inspiration for the story, which would go on to become his fourth novel. As such, Juan and his story have an inherent connection to Villalobos’ lived reality. Furthermore, through Juan’s character, the author explores the more problematic aspects of Barcelona, including the persistent corruption that runs rampant through different institutions.

Nonetheless, the more adventurous aspect of Juan’s story cements much of his experiences in the realm of fictionality. Thus, Juan’s character remains a reflection of real life, even if the details of his experience fail to match up perfectly with Villalobos.

Valentina’s Fictional Origins

Unlike Juan Pablo Villalobos’ character, Valentina doesn’t seem to have a firm basis in reality. Instead, the woman is entirely a work of fiction created to serve the narrative. Nevertheless, her character occupies a defining space within the film through her authentic building blocks as a character. Furthermore, her storyline subtly highlights a societal issue prevalent in the city of Barcelona.

Over the course of the film, we often witness Valentina— also known as Vale— facing passive-aggressive racism at the hands of background and minor characters. According to reports, racism and xenophobia, sporting a total of 185 reported cases in recent years, remain the most widespread reason for discrimination in the city. As such, by infusing the same in Vale’s experiences, the film ensures to portray a realistic image of a brewing real-life issue.

Alternatively, within the narrative, Valentina’s character endears herself to the viewers through her compelling attributes. New in the city with a distant boyfriend and an unknown target on her back, Valentina easily becomes an element within the story that the audience can empathize with. Additionally, since author Villalobos’ real life supplies beats of realism and authenticity to the story, it’s also possible that real people from his life inspired certain aspects of Valentina’s character. Nonetheless, for the most part, she remains a fictitious character.

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