Rosa's Wedding, M. 99 minutes. Four stars
Director and co-writer Ician Bolain's multi award-winning Spanish (with subtitles) comedy-drama is delightful. While it might seem a little frothy, there's poignancy and humanity and there are serious undertones that will strike a chord with many viewers.
Rosa (played by Candela Pena) is 44 and unhappy. She's underpaid and overworked as a seamstress for a cheapskate film production company in Valencia. She's dating Rafa (Xavo Giménez) but it doesn't seem like a particularly fulfilling or serious relationship. And she would love to open her own clothing business but it seems like a pipe dream.
Not only that, she's a prime example - or victim - of the saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." Her family, friends and neighbours are constantly leaning on her for favours, taking it for granted that she will oblige, as she obviously has for years. Many of us know, or are, someone in one of those categories: the giver or the taker.
Rosa's brother Armando (Sergi Lopez) is too caught up in developing his business to pay attention to his family: he's on the brink of divorce and he's constantly asking Rosa to look after his kids. Her sister Violeta (Nathalie Poza) is caught up in her own career. Neither of them pitch in to help with their widowed father Antonio (Ramon Barea). Mind the kids. Water the plants. Take widowed Dad to his doctor's appointments. On and on it goes, with nobody giving a thought to what Rosa might think or want or need. They barely, if ever, even listen to her.
Her daughter Lidia (Paula Usero) isn't around: she lives, not very happily, in Manchester with her husband John (who seems never to be around), has quit her job, and is looking after her young children. She doesn't have time to talk to Rosa either.
When Rosa's father announces he is going to move in with her - despite being quite capable of taking care of himself in his own home - it all becomes too much.
Rosa decides to take "the nuclear option". She quits her job, abandons all the responsibilities that others have heaped on her, and drives off to Benicassim, the town where she was born where her late mother's dress shop remains closed and abandoned (but still owned by the family).
She decides to take charge of her own life and to make a symbolic gesture. She will have a wedding, but she won't be marrying Rafa. Inspired by something she's heard, she will make a commitment to love and respect someone who's been sidelined for too long: herself.
What happens next is both farcical and a little disturbing: when her family hears she will be getting married (bit not to whom) they are both surprised and energised and - once again - ignore Rosa's own wishes for a quiet, intimate occasion to instigate their own plans for her.
While we are always on Rosa's side, Bolain and her collaborators have ensured the family members are not merely selfish and unsympathetic buffoons.
Will Rosa get to have any input into her own special day? And what will happen when everyone discovers who it is she is marrying?
While we are always on Rosa's side, Bolain and her collaborators have ensured the family members are not merely selfish and unsympathetic buffoons. As Jean Renoir put it in one of his movies, everyone has their reasons, and we learn more about them as the film progresses. Rosa's actions are a catalyst for reflections and revelations.
The way characters come and go occasionally seems a little rushed, both in terms of distance and time. But this doesn't matter too much in the context of the film, which establishes its own reality.
Rosa's Wedding is well worth seeing.