Journey To A Mother's Room

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Journey To A Mother's Room
"Clavellino's approach is unsentimental and all the more believable for that." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

The story of the migration of young Spaniards away from the country during the economic crisis has been referenced in a number of films, including Pikadero and In A Foreign Land. Here, it forms the crux of Celia Rico Clavellino's debut feature, which in an endorsement of the chord it has struck with younger audiences, took home the Youth Award at San Sebastian Festival - voted on by 300 18-25-year-olds.

Leonor (Anna Castillo) and her mum Estrella (Lola Dueñas) are a tight-knit mother and daughter unit, especially, you suspect, since Leonor's father died, his absence largely unspoken about. But as Estrella has retreated inwards, pouring her energies into her daughter and home, Leonor has more on her mind than simply following her mother into the town's clothing factory. When she tells her mum she's got a job as au pair in London, it's as though Estrella's life is crashing in, but in mum fashion, she is soon putting a brave face on it to see Leonor off.

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This is where Clavellino's film takes an interesting turn. Instead of following Leonor to London to see what happens in her new life, as might be expected, she stays at home with her mother and the space that used to be occupied by Leonor instead. What we learn about Leonor is what her mum learns from the smartphone she initially carries everywhere with her, while we begin to see a change in Estrella as she starts to 'move on' as well.

Clavellino's approach is unsentimental and all the more believable for that. She captures the small gestures that will be familiar to many mums and daughters - such as the way Estrella sneaks a brolly into Leonor's bag before she leaves or her initial endearing clumsiness when it comes to texting. The phone itself becomes a talisman for Estrella, her gradual ability to put it to one side an indication of her improving acceptance of Leonor's departure. Dueñas is perfectly cast as a matriarch who is at once determined in her love for her daughter but timid in other ways, gradually revealing her character's embrace of this new phase of life.

Although the film rarely leaves the family home - a good plan if you're a first-time filmmaker on a budget - and, like Leonor and Estrella, takes a while to find its feet, once it does, this becomes an enjoyably nuanced study of mother and daughter relationships that treats both its protagonists with care and attention, allowing both characters equal room to develop. Additional feel-good warmth is provided by Estrella's growing friendship with sewing machine repair guy Miguel (Pedro Casablanc). A small film but one with carefully nurtured emotions that would be perfect for a mum and daughter 'date night'.

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2018
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Journey To A Mother's Room packshot
Leonor wants to leave home, but she doesn’t dare to tell her mother. Estrella doesn’t want her to leave but is unable to keep her by her side either. Mother and daughter will have to face this new stage in life in which the world they share starts to fall apart.

Festivals:

SSFF 2018
London 2018

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