Friday, October 8, 2021

El Planeta - Movie Review

The Movie: El Planeta

The Director: Amalia Ulman

The Cast: Amalia Ulman, Ale Ulman, Nacho Vigalondo, Zhou Chen

The Story: Amidst the devastation of post-crisis Spain, mother and daughter bluff and grift to keep up the lifestyle they think they deserve, bonding over common tragedy and an impending eviction.

The Review:
Last year I fell in love with a black and white dramedy by first time director Lynn Chen called I Will Make You Mine where she explores the female perspective of three women who have a history with the same man. Now I sit here having watched Amalia Ulman's debut feature as a director which just happens to be a black and white dramedy that explores a very female perspective on two women, mother and daughter, who are dealing with poverty and a culture that doesn't provide many opportunities for success. I think this is a story that people will dissect and uncover layers of subtext under close and repeated examination for years to come.

Ulman's story unfolds on screen beautifully with visuals that feel more bold and biting without color getting in the way of the storytelling. The director, who also wrote, produced, and stars in the movie holds nothing back with a very opinionated script that has a lot to say about the culture and society and politics of Spain and especially as it pertains to women. That being said, the heart of the story is really the relationship between the daughter, played by Amalia and her mother, played by her actual mother Ale Ulman. I guess it's more the distance that has grown between them as the directions of their lives drift farther and farther apart.

Part of what makes this movie so fun to watch is knowing that the mother and daughter in the movie are played by a real life mother and daughter duo and there probably is some layer of reality to the story that Amalia Ulman has created. Whenever they are on screen together it is very clear that that the relationship they share is authentic and just how they exist in space together, there's a level of comfort combined with a level of tension between the two that would otherwise be hard to fabricate. The struggles each of the two characters have are magnified by the struggles they have together which keep them at opposition as well as acting as a bonding force that connects them. 

The Verdict:
El Planeta is a stunning debut for writer, director, producer, and star Amalia Ulman. The movie she has created is certainly no fairy tale but when you really start digging into it, everything about the story is really quite brilliant. I highly recommend that you give it a look.

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