Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
This film marks the arrival of two special talents. Firstly, there’s writer-director Carla Simón, who in her debut feature demonstrates astonishing assurance behind the camera. Then there’s little Laia Artigas, who gives a downright superb performance as six-year-old Frida. As the movie begins, this young orphan is being driven away to the country, to be raised by uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer) and aunt Marga (Bruna Cusi). Simón gives us the backstory slowly, through ominous hints: shame surrounding the parents’ deaths, regular visits to the doctor for Frida, panic when she cuts her knee on the playground.
This youngster is a mysterious, unsettling presence at first—all wide, burning eyes and blank facial expressions. The focus of nearly every scene, Frida gets more and more troublesome as the film goes on, until she lets go with an emotional outpouring that’s as moving as it is convincing. God knows how the director got such a performance from Artigas, but she must have built a great bond of trust with her to elicit such natural, unguarded feeling. This is a supremely restrained film, but it’s far from tranquil: its slow pace and quiet tone conceal a core of love and grief.
"Authentic and memorable… add Artigas to the list of talented fledgling performers able to both act and articulate the inner state of being a child in times of trouble."—Sarah Ward, Screen
Best First Feature, Berlin 17