Director Benito Zambrano goes against the grain of current Spanish cinema with this heartfelt and affecting social drama about two generations of women who are caught between the old world’s barbarism and the modern city’s ruthless anonymity. Maria (Anna Fernandez) is adrift in the big city, where she barely makes ends meet working as a cleaner and lives in a crumbling apartment. Alone and embittered, she has been left pregnant by her insensitive boyfriend and is ill-prepared for a visit by her mother, Rosa (Maria Galiana). The long-suffering yet stoical Rosa is visiting from the country to see her husband, who is hospitalised. Both mother and daughter have been abused by men, but they can hardly speak to each other.
On paper, the film’s stark contrasts between old and young, country and city, may seem simplistic, but Zambrano’s subtle direction and the understated performances make for a work that is resonant and truthful. The acting is outstanding, and the film relies more on gestures and glances than on dialogue or grand declarations. Solas struck a chord in Spain, and it’s easy to see why any audience would respond to the film’s quietly touching portrait of love and dignity at work in a harsh world.
Spain, 1999.English subtitles.Colour.Dolby stereo SR.98 mins.