by Alfonso Rivera

The topic of motherhood is currently very much in fashion in the worlds of culture and the media: it is addressed in various songs and films, and we need only mention, among others, Parallel Mothers [+] by Pedro Almodóvar (a filmmaker who has always been interested in this topic, as demonstrated by his previous effort All About My Mother) and The Lost Daughter [+] by Maggie Gyllenhaal, with the ever-excellent Olivia Colman in the lead role. Another title to add to this trend – or perhaps it’s a mere coincidence – is Lullaby [+], the feature debut by Alauda Ruiz de Azúa, which has been world-premiered in the Panorama section of the 72nd Berlin Film Festival and is in the running for the GWFF Best First Feature Award.

Even with its very title, the Basque director reminds us that, just as a lullaby is passed down from generation to generation (the one featured as the Spanish title of the film, Cinco lobitos, is especially famous), a person’s way of being and behaving can also be similarly transferred. That’s why, after a certain stage in later life, when the roles are reversed and we have to take care of our elders, each person comes to realise just how difficult and trying this job actually is. At those moments, our previous and personal standpoint from which to observe – and judge – our parents is flipped around completely and definitively. Lullaby talks about all of this, as well as those women who dedicated – and sacrificed – their lives to looking after others, leaving their own existences on the back burner (something that David Martín de los Santos also portrayed in That Was Life [+]).

Without being the least bit ashamed of her intense admiration for Japanese maestros Ozu and Kore-eda, Ruiz de Azúa trains her camera – just like they did – on everyday, domestic life, without any narrative fanfare but with consummate tenderness, inspecting the relationships and tensions within two couples/families, from different generations. While some feelings and emotions are shouted from the rooftops, others are merely whispered, and most are left unspoken.

Because when we return to the family home for any reason, that place where we spent our childhood and where, in some respects, time seems to be standing still, we realise that it’s somewhere still dominated by old hierarchies, deeply embedded tensions and roles that are set in stone. This is also reflected by the protagonists of this highly empathetic “little big story”, brought to life by Laia Costa, Susi Sánchez and Ramón Barea: the latter two actors shoulder the burden of playing characters concealing various secrets and lies that, sooner or later, will end up coming to light.

Lullaby is one of the projects that took part in the second iteration of the ECAM’s La Incubadora. It is a co-production by Encanta FilmsSayaka Producciones and Buena Pinta MediaLatido Films is in charge of its international sales, while Bteam Pictures will release the movie in Spanish theatres on 20 May.


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