Director: Gonzalo Tapia

2001. Subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo. 108 mins.

Fusing a coming-of-age teen drama with a tale of nasty drug runners may be stretching things generically, but director Gonzalo Tapia’s Lena pulls it off very well, thanks to strong leading performances and the engagingly conceived and played heroine of the title. Feisty 18-year-old Lena (Marta Larralde) lives with her hard-drinking slob of a father and hopes to escape by getting a grant to study in Portugal. The father is mixed up with some drug smugglers, and Lena gets involved when they attack her dad for stealing.
One of the film’s great strengths is its unflinching portrait of a once-thriving fishing village in Galicia that’s fallen on hard times. Its other chief asset is the stunning Larralde, who appears in practically every scene and makes the burden seem light. Apart from having the kind of soft features and natural approach the camera loves, she plays the generally tight script to the fullest and brings out Lena’s innocence, toughness and neediness.

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