15 July 2018



'That girl has no morals.'

'How did my previous mum die?'

'I'm going back home because no-one loves me here.'

'Do you want to kill Anna or what? Because that's what you'll do.'

'It was due to your father that she (your mother) did a lot of silly things, but she loved you very much.'

This is a gorgeous Spanish-language summer film. It's billed as a coming-of-age film but, as the two little female leads are only six and three or four respectively, I'd say that it's more of a people-coming-to-terms-with-things film, in this case bereavement and change, big big change.

Frida is the lead character. She's a gorgeous curly-haired little brunette fairy of a six-year-old. When her mother dies of pneumonia, Frida leaves her home city of Barcelona to go and live in the countryside with her mother's brother, her big dark beardy Uncle Esteve, and his wife Margarita.

Frida seems very self-possessed for her age, almost unnaturally so. We don't see her weeping and wailing over her mother at all, initially. Rather, she calmly and coolly unpacks her precious dolls in her new bedroom and tells her little cousin Anna never to go near them. 'They gave me presents because they love me a lot. And you mustn't touch them ever, promise?'

The rustic old house is charming, with chickens clucking contentedly around the yard, and the surrounding countryside is just stunning, with its trees and streams and hills and little woods and grass, miles and miles of grass.

It's a wonderful place to bring up a child although, conversely, there are also a million places for an unsupervised child to get lost in or hurt in or scared half to death in, so you'd really have to be keeping a close eye on them in order to keep the little tykes safe.

Frida has trouble settling into life with her new family at first. These things always take time, no matter how thoroughly you've prepared for them. Uncle Esteve is relaxed and easy to get on with, but Auntie Marga, who looks uncannily like Britain's Kay Burley from SKY NEWS, is more uptight.

Mind you, she's the one who has to make sure that the kids drink their milk, take their vitamins and get to their doctors' or dental appointments on time, so it's not surprising that she gets a little nervy or snappish at times. 

Dad just turns up in the evening, after a day's work, for bedtime cuddles and the news of the day. Mum gets the hard job, that of being the hard-ass who has to enforce the rules on a daily basis, lol.

Frida has to go to the doctor a lot at first. She has eczema, which is annoying enough, but she needs her blood regularly monitored because of the way her Mum died. You can guess what she died from, can't you? Frida seems fine but it doesn't stop the other mothers in the playground yanking their kids away when Frida cuts her knee and there's visible blood.

Little Anna, Esteve and Marga's only child, is a precious little darling. Together, Anna and Frida play and laugh and sing all summer long, with the occasional blip. It's a great film for reminding you how you too used to play with the hose in your knickers in the backyard on hot days, and how you used to raid your parents' wardrobe to play dress-up in.

We see some lovely scenes of family life in the film. The director concentrates a lot on the kiddies' bath-time and bedtime routines and mealtimes, the very stuff that family life is made of. I'm not sure we need to see Mum changing her sanitary protection during her time of the month though! I must admit, that's the first time I've seen that done in a film. Talk about realism, lol.

Frida's loving but religious grandparents and her Auntie Lola come to visit sometimes. Marga's clearly not keen on having them around for too long, probably seeing them as a disruptive influence, but they won't be edged out of Frida's life. This is despite the fact that they obviously wouldn't approve of the lifestyle that possibly led Frida's mother to contract her life-limiting disease.

There's a lot of tension there around the whole grandparents' thing, and Frida, the little Madam, tries to make out to them that she's the Cinderella of the house now: 'They make me wash dishes. They make me clean the house. I'm like their housemaid.' Well, we never see her do so much as a hand's turn around the house but whatever...!

It's clear that Frida at times feels very much left out of the little tight-knit family of Esteve, Marga and Anna. It's heart-breaking when we see her leaving little presents for her mum- cigarettes and a little scarf- at the statue of the Virgin Mary in the woods. 'It's a special present for my mum. She'll love it. When she comes, give it to her.' Aaaaaaw. That's so sad.

It's more disturbing for Esteve and Marga when Frida twice encourages little Anna into situations where she hurts herself. The first time results in a broken arm for the chubby, sweet-faced toddler and, the second time, Anna nearly drowns.

It's explainable by the simple jealousy that often exists between children for various reasons, but it's a worry for Esteve and Marga nonetheless. And Back-To-School is looming and the summer of endless sunshine is rapidly coming to an end and Frida still hasn't grieved properly for her mum. Is there a massive explosion of grief imminent? It's certainly long overdue, and it'd be healthier for the child as well.

This is such a beautiful film, touching on Spanish culture and festivals as well as the close-knit nature of Spanish family life. It's an autobiographical film also, in that the director's parents both died of the same terrible disease that afflicted Frida's parents.

No better woman, so, to tell her own story, and what a moving story it is! Do try to see this understated little gem when it comes to the cinema next week. I can promise you that it'll be the highlight of your summer. Now please help yourself to some free extra information, lol.

Carla Simón studied at the University of California and the Audiovisual Communication Department of Universitat Autònoma of Barcelona. After that, she directed TV series and programmes for TV Catalan.

After being awarded the prestigious scholarship of Obra Social “la Caixa,” Simón moved to the UK to study at the London Film School, where she wrote and directed the documentary BORN POSITIVE and the fictional LIPSTICK, both short films programmed in numerous international film festivals.

SUMMER 1993, her feature film debut produced by Inicia Films and co-produced by Avalon, was developed at Berlinale Script Station, Ekran program in Poland, and Sources 2 in Barcelona, and won the SGAE screenwriting fund. It was also presented at the Low Budget Film Forum in Les Arcs, Premiers Plans Atelier, and Berlinale Co-Production Market, and won First Prize in Holland Film Meetings in 2015.

The film also received support from the MEDIA Development funding and the ICAA fund for production. In 2013, Simón created Young For Film!, an association which taught cinema to children and teenagers. Since moving back to Barcelona, she has been collaborating with “Cinema en Curs.”


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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