ON THE FRINGE ★★★★★- Glasgow Film Festival

4 mins read

A heart-breaking depiction of true sacrifices.

The most gut-wrenching version of Love Actually, where the characters’ lives interconnect with one another, only instead of preparing for Christmas, they are facing evictions. 

Directed by Juan Diego Botto, this emotional masterpiece deals with the unspoken reality of Spain, where an estimated 100 evictions occur each day, banks are crashing and stipends are as low as four euros an hour.

In his first feature film, Botto successfully displays how Spain is not the holiday escape many Brits dream of, but a hard-hitting reality locals can’t escape. He said: “The film explores the impact of the recession on the relationships between couples, parents, and children. And within that, the role that mothers play as providers of love and wellbeing within the family.” 

The slow pace of the movie adds to the anguish of what the characters are going through, and although it only follows one day of their lives, the emotional vulnerability of the characters, combined with the credibility of the acting, fully transports the audience into their reality.

The story takes place in the capital, Madrid, and the three main interconnecting storylines are those of Azucena (Penelope Crùz), a wife and mother struggling to make ends meet with her supermarket job. She is one day away from eviction and her unsupportive and absent husband leaves her to beg social centres and food banks in the area to help her and her 6-year-old son keep their home. She is a wonderful representation of mothers who fight to the end to protect their families, while simultaneously attempting to shield them from the hard-hitting reality.

Rafa (Lùis Tosar) is a driven, yet underfunded, lawyer and social rights activist. His devotion to helping others leads him to spend an entire day looking for single mother, Badia, in an attempt to let her know her daughter was taken by social services and instruct her on how to get her back. And while successful in his mission, he is too blinded by the cause to realise how negligent he is toward his pregnant wife and teenage stepson.

Finally, Teodora (Adelfa Calvo), an elderly woman battling loneliness and depression after the loss of her husband and the “disappearance” of her son, German, who feels responsible for the drastic financial situation the family finds itself in and is too ashamed to answer her calls. Her reasons to live have been stripped away, leaving her as an empty shell. Teodora is the depiction of a mother at its true core: a fighter and a lover who, once left with nothing to love or fight for, has an imminent bubble of numbness surrounding her. 

Botto successfully presents a meaningful experience for his viewers, leaving them a heaviness in the chest that comes with the realisation of how unjust the system can be for some. On the Fringe is more than a film, it is a cry for help that will, hopefully, invoke change. 

Featured Image Credit: En Los Margenes

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