Journey to a Mother’s Room (Viaje al cuarto de una madre)


Mother/daughter relationships can be complicated.

(2018) Drama (Loco/Alfa) Lola Dueñas, Anna Castillo, Noemi Hopper, Ana Mena, Susana Abaitua, Marisol Membrillo, Pedro Casablanc, Silvia Casanova, Lucia Muñoz Durán, Adelfa Calvo, Maika Barroso, Beatriz Cotobal. Directed by Celia Rico Clavellino

Letting go is one of the hardest things a parent has to do – but they have to do it in order for their children to become independent, self-sufficient adults. Some find it much harder to do than others.

Estrella (Dueñas) lives in a small Spanish town in a small Spanish apartment with her daughter Leonor (Castillo) who works at the same dry-cleaning plant that she herself once worked in. The two watch telenovelas on the tube, sharing snacks and often falling asleep together on the couch. As for the dad, whether he’s deceased, divorced or deserted, it all amounts to him being absent and unremarked upon; his non-presence makes him no better than a ghost.

But like many young people, Leonor longs for more and after a friend returns from London and speaks glowingly about her experiences there, Leonor determines that she is going to have those experiences for herself. However, telling her mother that is another thing entirely; she’s sure that this will lead to an unpleasant confrontation. Estrella turns out to handle it a lot better than her daughter expects her to although she’s not wild about the idea; still, she realizes that her daughter needs to spread her wings and she can’t do that inside the nest.

Estrella is lonely without Leonor and lives for her daughter’s infrequent calls on What’s App. Still, when the boss of the dry cleaning plant (Casablanc) approaches Estrella with a request to make some dresses, Estrella finds a new lease on life and a purpose that until then had completely revolved around raising her daughter. As for Leonor, London turns out to be a lot different than she had anticipated.

This slice of life film is unusual in that it takes the point of view of the mother; rather than follow the younger woman to the big city, it stays in the small town with the mom and examines what happens with her when the walls close in and there is nothing but the silence to fill it. Fortunately for us, two brilliant Spanish actresses – frequent Almodóvar collaborator Dueñas and promising new face Castillo both deliver compelling and understated performances that smack of authenticity.

Most women are going to recognize the civil friction between the two, either from the mother’s or the daughter’s point of view. Each are clinging to something; the mom to memories of the past, the daughter to a vision of an unattainable future. Both have their delusions in their own way; both are resolute in sticking to them. The one thing that is certain though is that the two love each other and need each other.

My problem with the movie though rests with the pacing which is very slow, as well as the often-meandering story that sometimes chases its own tail. There seems to be a lot of script that could have been judiciously trimmed to make the story a bit more succinct. The ending also comes a bit more abruptly than I would have liked.

Then again, life generally doesn’t move in those cadences; life moves to a beat all its own and it is rare that we are in sync with it. There is a lot to recommend this film (and I do) but I can’t do that unreservedly without telling readers that there is a good chance that they will find the movie difficult. Still, I think an awful lot of mothers and daughters would benefit from giving this one a whirl.

REASONS TO SEE: It’s a very realistic portrayal of a relationship between mother and daughter.
REASONS TO AVOID: Unfortunately, the film is prone to meandering and then ends abruptly
FAMILY VALUES: There is some brief sexuality and mild profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While this is Clavellino’s feature film debut, she has directed a short film which won the Gaudi Award for Best Short Film, the equivalent of an Oscar given for films in the Catalan language of Western Spain.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/1/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Mothers and Daughters
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
Gloria Bell

Advertisements

Pick of the Litter – April 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Avengers: Endgame

(Disney/Marvel) Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson. The events of Avengers: The Infinity War have left the universe devastated. Many friends have fallen but one hero doesn’t accept it; Captain America. He has a plan to put things to rights. Whether or not it works, one thing is certain – the Marvel Cinematic Universe will never be the same. This brings Phase III to an end. April 26

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Haunting of Sharon Tate

(Saban) Hilary Duff, Jonathan Bennett, Lydia Hearst, Pawel Szajda. Sometimes the prurient captures our imagination. In the days prior to one of the most notorious and gruesome murders in history, doomed actress Sharon Tate supposedly had premonitions of what was going to happen to her and her unborn baby. This movie follows along with that proposition. April 5

The Wind

(IFC Midnight) Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Miles Anderson, Dylan McTee. A woman living in an isolated cabin on the prairie in the 19th century is disturbed by the non-stop winds. Her fears are further amplified when a newlywed couple moves in nearby. Despite her husband’s assurances that there is nothing out there but the wind, it turns out that there is something malevolent watching her and it has sharp claws. April 5

Unicorn Store

(Netflix) Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Whitford, Joan Cusack. A young woman who is having trouble adjusting to adulthood receives a mysterious invitation to shop at a store that will allow her to fulfill her most precious childhood dreams. This charming film marks the directing debut of Oscar-winning actress Larson. April 5

Wild Nights With Emily

(Greenwich) Molly Shannon, Amy Seimetz, Susan Ziegler, Brett Gelman. Most of us who have any impression of the great poet Emily Dickinson see her as a reclusive spinster. However, this comedy explores her relationship with her sister-in-law Susan, to whom Emily’s letters reveal a much different side than popular thought.. April 12

The Most Dangerous Year

(Passion River) Vlada Knowlton. For the transgender community, it is generally agreed upon that 2016 was one of the most dangerous years for that community ever as several states considered banning transgenders from using public restrooms of the gender they identified with. This deeply personal documentary (the filmmaker’s daughter is a transgender) highlights the human side of that controversial equation. April 12

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

(Kino-Lorber) Wei Tang, Jue Huang, Sylvia Chang, Hong-Chi Lee. This Chinese art house hit follows a lonely man returning to his native province where he reminisces about a mysterious woman whom he met 20 years earlier. Apparently, the hour-long climax was done in one single shot. Like most of director Gan Bi’s work, this is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. April 12

Satan & Adam

(Cargo) Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, Adam Gussow, Al Sharpton, The Edge. This duo of street musicians known as Satan and Adam couldn’t have been more different; one was a veteran Mississippi delta blues man who backed up the likes of Etta James and James Brown (at the Apollo Theater no less), the other an Ivy League-educated harmonica player. Together though they made music that would make Old Scratch himself dance a jig. April 12

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

(Screen Media) Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Olga Kurylenko. This long-awaited Terry Gilliam film finally sees the light of day! An acclaimed but cynical film director gets sucked into the delusions of a Spanish cobbler who believes himself to be Don Quixote de la Mancha and the director to be Sancho Panza. As the delusion becomes increasingly surreal, the director is forced to confront the repercussions of a film he made as a young man that devastated a Spanish village and the impending mortality of the cobbler. April 10 (Fathom Releases)

Under the Silver Lake

(A24) Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Jimmi Simpson. A young man whose life is going nowhere meets an effervescent young woman frolicking in the pool of his apartment complex and makes a connection – or so he thinks. When she seemingly disappears the next morning, he goes on a quest searching L.A. for hidden clues to find the girl of his dreams. April 19

The White Crow

(Sony Classics) Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann, Adele Exarchopoulos. Rudolf Nureyev was perhaps the greatest dancer in the world. The Soviet Union used him as a political symbol of Soviet superiority in the arts. At the height of the Cold War, he defected – an act that was much more complicated than it sounds. April 26