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The strains of caring for a father who has fallen deep into dementia. Single mother of three is stretched to the limit. Is there such a thing as cruel to be kind?
Familial duty and sacrifice are fruitful grounds for dramatists, providing a rich vein of stock for analysis and psychology.
This feature from Rodrigo Pla explores the tribulations of a single mother fighting to maintain composure and security for her family home, in a bleak essay on the consequence of desperate times calling for desperate measures.
Maria (Roxana Blanco) works as a seamstress. She struggles to provide a home for her three children and her ill father, who is requiring more and more attention. Her salary does not offer adequate cover for this bustling household, with its demand of care and comfort. Seeking advice from the authorities for assistance in the care for her father, she is confronted with a dead-end. This forces her into making a tough decision, and the implications might break the family for once and for all.
This is an austere drama, skirting away from the impulses of a mainstream melodrama, by keeping a distance from all of the protagonists, not least the mother. Pla does not make her an overly sympathetic figure. On the one hand, this heightens the realism (not everyone is postcard perfect), but it also requires some adjustment on behalf of the viewer to attempt to process the thought patterns running through the mind of this daughter. The bumpy and emotionally removed start paves way for a stronger second half, that leads to a gripping finale. The father, Agustin (played by Carlos Vallarino), oozes vulnerability and expertly encapsulates the innocent confusion caused by dementia.
Although not perfect, this film prompts discussion, and that is one of the beauties of cinema. It is disappointing that the first half does not match the second, but it is an interesting picture and worth seeking out.
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