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Agustín Díaz Yanes
Maria, whose parents live in the country, cannot stand her father's authoritarian ways and moves to the city. She finds a job as a cleaner and tries to survive in a wretched apartment in the shabby part of a big city. She is pregnant, and the fact that her boyfriend has abandoned her does not help matters. When her father goes to the hospital for an operation, her mother comes to stay with her. Her neighbor, an old recluse whose only friend is his dog, begins to come out of his shell and these three lost souls try to give each other the strength to start over. Written by
Go deep, fear nothing, look for escape and be brave.
A purely effective entry into the private worlds of several very lonely people in contemporary Spain. Tenderly filmed, acted with understated and honest passion, and written in a way that makes you believe it.
And that's the point. You really care about first the lonely old woman, then increasingly about her troubled daughter, and finally about the old man who is a neighbor living alone. What some people need, other people need to give. But they don't always know it, or if they know it they still resist, trapped by promises made or by convention.
It's an interesting dose of reality that there are a couple of truly bad people here, as well, both men, both abusive in different ways to their woman. One, an older man in the hospital, remains bitter even as his health declines, and he reveals in a key passage that what he cares about is whether he was the kind of man society and tradition had expected him to be. Nothing else. It's sad, but not as tormenting as the younger selfish man who almost glories in his selfishness.
What makes the movie strike deep, though, is how the women put up with this. We aren't sure if it is because they too are caught up in society's traditions, or if they have some emotional need to be abused, however that gets started. But what we are sure of is how familiar this sounds--if not in our own relationships, at least in those around us, somewhere.
As powerful as this movie is, it is never overpowering, and never sentimentally driven (until, alas, the very end, which is a disappointing but understandable wrap up). What works so well is how subtle the emotional highs and lows are. It's all written and directed by people who understand what is going on in life, beyond the deceptions of the silver screen.
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