Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Though it’s nicely drawn and the performances are good, especially from Sánchez, this is all fairly familiar stuff." | Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF

Amaia (Laia Costa) is still in pain from the stitches. She says that they gave her too many (something which is occasionally true, and for the worst of reasons). The breastfeeding hurts too. Her house is full of clamour as people move around, busying themselves with one thing or another, creating constant distraction, telling her that she’s approaching breastfeeding incorrectly and then interrupting her when she’s trying to get it right. It’s painfully obvious that she wants some peace and quiet, but of course, with a new baby, that never lasts long.

This is not a good time for partner Javi (Mikel Bustamante) to bail on her. He says that he’s been offered three weeks’ work in Valencia and can’t afford not to take it. She’s already turned down one job because of the baby and now it starts to become clear that what is expected of her does not apply to him, that their assumed roles are very different. Exhausted and at her wits’ end, she is rescued by her mother, Begoña (Susi Sánchez), and father, Koldo (Ramón Barea), travelling to the Basque coast to spend a few days in their home. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months, and the Amaia who emerges at the end of it all is barely recognisable when compared with the one at the outset.

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No matte how carefully one prepares for them, babies seem to come out of nowhere. They’re all different and one never really knows what to expect from them. It’s not surprising that relationships come under strain as they reveal who the people around them really are. Although Javi visits the house on the coast, grating against her father, borderline flirting with her charismatic mother, his parenting skills are impressively poor and he seems disinclined to show any real commitment. His work in Valencia drags on and on and Amaia begins to wonder whether she really wants him after all. As she grows more confident in her own parenting, she also begins to wonder if she needs him.

Living in the house where she does not appear to have spent any time as an adult, she also sees her parents’ relationship in a different light. her mother’s habit of smashing plates is disturbing; the explanation that it’s an alternative to beating her husband doesn’t really help. In the park they meet a very friendly man called Iñaki (José Ramón Soroiz), who seems closer to Begoña than Amaia would like. She’s caught in an awkward place where, despite her youth, she seems to be the prudish one, and her moralising is not what her troubled father actually needs. When something happens to Begoña, however, everybody’s relationships are rearranged, and the love which has held this chaotic family together finally becomes clear.

Though it’s nicely drawn and the performances are good, especially from Sánchez, this is all fairly familiar stuff. It felt like a rather mundane entry in the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival line-up, enlivened principally by Jon D Domínguez’s cinematography, which is a fine advert for the region. There is something impressive, however, is the way in which director Alauda Ruiz de Azúa shows us Amaia’s personality coalescing out of all this chaos; it’s one of those too-rare coming of age films which explores a moment other than adolescence. This bodes well for future work, which may well grant Lullaby a belated importance.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2023
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Amaia has just given birth to her first daughter. She would prefer not to give up her career as a translator, but it’s not easy to balance it with her family and looking after a young child. When her partner goes away on business for seven weeks, the young woman capitulates and goes to stay with her parents in the countryside.

Director: Alauda Ruiz de Azúa

Writer: Alauda Ruiz de Azúa

Starring: Laia Costa, Susi Sánchez, Ramón Barea, Mikel Bustamante, José Ramón Soroiz, Asier Valdestilla García, Justi Larrinaga, Isidoro Fernández, Gloria Helguera, Carmen Berbaola, Lorena López, Elena Sáenz, Ana Isabel Martínez, Anuska Pernia Sainz, Nerea Arriola

Year: 2022

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: Spain

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