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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 New Directors

Review: Journey to a Mother’s Room

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Celia Rico Clavellino lives up to the expectations generated around her meticulously attentive portrait of a mother-daughter relationship brought to life by her excellent actresses

Review: Journey to a Mother’s Room
Lola Dueñas and Anna Castillo in Journey to a Mother’s Room

Right now, as this writer pens these words, just three days away from the end of the 66th San Sebastián Film Festival, Journey to a Mother’s Room [+see also:
trailer
interview: Celia Rico Clavellino
film profile
]
, the feature debut by Seville-born Celia Rico Clavellino, is sitting pretty at the top of the list of films that have garnered the most votes from the youth jury. This is a very significant fact and speaks volumes, as the movie tackles the relationship between a girl and her mother: it appears that the audience’s recognition of what they see on the screen could turn this film, presented in the New Directors section, into one of this season’s surprise Spanish hits.

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Celia Rico beckons the audience into a village house, very similar to the one in which she herself grew up. There is something missing there: the late father, whose presence lives on through various objects and through the memories of his family members - the titular mother (an excellent performance by Lola Dueñas) and her daughter (Anna Castillo, confirmed as an undeniable talent after she snagged the Goya Award for The Olive Tree [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Icíar Bollaín
film profile
]
two years ago). However, the girl does not want to continue living within these four walls and tread the path trodden by her mother, despite the fact that it is where she feels most sheltered and protected. She wants to fly far, far away, like other girls of her generation. But that particular desire could perhaps be hurtful to her mum, and the lack of communication between the two puts a strain on their cohabitation...

Starting with something so simple yet so recognisable, we slowly examine the minutiae of the myriad nuances inherent in family life, broken down into details that may on the surface appear insignificant, and aided by spot-on, authentic dialogue, in a tiny place strongly governed by tradition and deeply rooted in the past. Even though it appears that everything is straightforward and routine in this film, a meticulous and laborious process of working with the actresses turns Castillo into that daughter or son we have all been at some point, and likewise, we come to recognise that mother who has always had our well-being at heart. When youthful dreams drive them apart, the telephone becomes a symbolic umbilical cord, and the many kilometres that separate them sow the seed of a guilty conscience in one of them, while in the other, counter to expectations, distance perhaps represents a form of release she had never even dreamed of.

With cinematography by Santiago Racaj (Summer 1993 [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carla Simón
film profile
]
) and editing by Fernando Franco, Celia Rico can’t disguise her admiration of the films of the latter, who directed Dying [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Fernando Franco
film profile
]
. Much like those movies, it paints a psychological portrait and embodies intimacy, akin to the feeling we get on a winter’s night as we doze on the sofa by the warmth of the fireplace, that place we all come from and which seems like a prison and a cosy nest at the same time: a paradoxical sensation that this movie is able to capture in a very understated manner, with heartfelt and profound sensitivity, and not without great affection for its characters.

Journey to a Mother’s Room is a Spanish-French co-production involving the companies Amorós Producciones, Arcadia Motion Pictures, Pecado Films, Sisifo Films and Noodles Productions. It will be released in Spain on 5 October, courtesy of Alfa Pictures. Its international sales have been entrusted to French firm Loco Films.

(Translated from Spanish)

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