Much lauded in Spain last year, Zambrano's film is a let-down. Fernández plays María, a hardboiled forty-nothing struggling to keep it all together: she smokes too much, stretches her tab at the neighbourhood bar, and fucks an unsympathetic trucker when he's in town. Forced to stay in the city while her sick husband is laid up in hospital, María's elderly mother (Galiana) finds her lifestyle distressing - but she bites her tongue, as always, quietly cleans the place up, and surprises herself by falling into a discreet courtship with the gallant old gentleman in the flat downstairs (Alvarez). Their Platonic romance is handled with delicacy, and at first our emotions are evenly pulled between kindly mother and angry daughter. On some level, Zambrano means to criticise patriarchal oppression by making the sick father a hateful figure. But as the film goes on, it becomes clear the director has other fish to fry. For a start, he has designs on our tear ducts, as the increasingly maudlin score signals. He's a closet conservative, too: the movie implicitly indicts the big bad city and its irreligious modern ways - especially the sexually liberated single working woman, packed off to the country with a baby and an asexual surrogate husband/father in the deadly last reel. Your granny might like it.
Cast and crew
Paco de Osca