To oversimplify, Celia Rico Clavellino’s deeply personal debut feature is an affecting tale about a daughter who craves change, and a mother who fears it.
We think we’re about to watch the age-old story of a young girl’s thirst for independence, taking her tentative first steps outside of her small Andalusian town – but that’s not a tale Clavellino is interested in telling. When Leonor (Castillo) leaves for England, the script is flipped. Like her bereft mother Estrella (Dueñas), we’re left behind, padding around a dimly-lit home and only getting to glimpse Leonor’s new life through occasional WhatsApp messages.
If there’s a sense that the more obviously interesting plotline has just flown a thousand-odd miles north, ignore that thought and stick around for the plot’s rarely-explored counterpart – the parent left behind. The eminently talented Lola Dueñas delivers a quiet and unshowy performance that slowly but surely commands our attention, even if little is actually happening.
A lonely, bereaved mother learning to live without her daughter doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of laughs anyway, but though it’s certainly tinged with sadness, the film never becomes outright gloomy. Ultimately, it’s compelling stuff thanks to lovely performances by Dueñas and Anna Castillo, and Clevellino’s achingly authentic script. Embracing the complexity of mother-daughter relationships, she avoids the tired trope of a tyrannical mother suffocating her daughter, instead presenting a mother-daughter dyad who both desperately need each other, and yet clearly need to be away from each other for a spell.
This quiet rumination on growing up, grief, and learning to loosen your grip on those you love is a promising first feature for Celia Rico Clavellino, carried by two beautiful central performances. By the time the credits roll, you’ll probably want to give your mum a call.
CAST: Lola Dueñas, Anna Castillo, Pedro Casablanc
DIRECTOR: Celia Rico Clavellino
WRITER: Celia Rico Clavellino
SYNOPSIS: Since the death of her father, Leonor and mother Estrella have wrapped themselves in a cocoon of uneventful, pedestrian comfort. When Leonor breaks free and leaves home to work as an au pair in London, Estrella is faced with an empty nest for the first time.