Southern Brides


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Southern Brides
"Through it all is a common thread of authenticity and of women opening up about things and feelings they are rarely asked to scrutinise." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

One of the most unusual elements of the debut feature, The Water, from Elena López Riera was the inclusion of a documentary element. It saw women speak directly to camera about the myth of a river falling in love with young women and sweeping them off.

These conversations had an intimacy and showed the variation with which people can describe the same thing. That’s something López Riera returns to with her latest, mid-length short, which is partly an interrogation of her own unmarried, childless status in relation to her mother and part exploration of the experience of marriage of her women in her mum’s generation.

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The scrutiny she’s aiming for is brought home by an initial preamble, in which she zooms in on a wedding day photo of her mother, focusing on a bracelet here, the curl of her perfectly set hair there. Through the course of Southern Brides we’ll get to look at a lot of wedding day photos and home videos. By lingering on them, López Riera encourages us to join her in contemplation of what might have been going through their minds in the moment.

To help fill in at least some of the detail around expectation are a series of older women - one of whom is 103 years old, although it’s hard to believe - recall their wedding days and marriages. One talks of the excitement and hopes she had as she got wed, while another says she did it “just because”. Their experience of losing their virginity differs wildly, in one case neither partner had a clue what they were doing, in another, the man was shocked to discover he wasn’t his wife’s first, while a third has gone to extraordinary lengths to preserve the moment. All of them are a far cry from what younger generations might expect regarding honeymoons and first nights, involving everything from borrowed apartments to a lilo.

Through it all is a common thread of authenticity and of women opening up about things and feelings they are rarely asked to scrutinise. A little more on the director’s own experience would be welcome, since she inserts questions regarding daughters without children and other existential inquiries. López Riera proves a good interviewer and it's only a shame she is less willing to reveal her own secrets.

Reviewed on: 21 May 2024
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Southern Brides packshot
Older women talk about their wedding, losing their virginity and sex.

Director: Elena López Riera

Year: 2024

Runtime: 37 minutes

Country: Spain


Cannes 2024

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