An Expert and Effectively Emotional Exploration of Self-Worth and Necessary Communication
Iciar Bollain has an ability to make incredibly reflective films of societies current troubles. Her debut feature Flowers from Another World (1999) was about Latin American immigration to Spain, which was helping repopulate rural towns. She also explored domestic abuse with her acclaimed Take My Eyes (2003) when the subject was still taboo in much of the world. She was able to showcase modern imperialism with Even the Rain(2010), she looked at the costs that globalization with The Olive Tree (2016), and most recently took on the perspective of the immigrant in the biopic Yuli (2018). It is continuously prescient that the Spanish director would tap into the issue of self-love and psychological introspection with her newest Rosa’s Wedding (2020).
Rosa’s Wedding follows Rosa (Candela Peñas) a costume designer in film working in Valencia. Rosa is a person that people blindly rely on for certain responsibilities (a general symbolism for women in general). People dump chores on her without ever asking: to water a neighbor’s plants while she’s away, or take care of a pet, to make over fifty dresses for extra’s in a few days, or unwillingly house her own father (Ramon Barea). Rosa, thus, decides to take off to her hometown where she invites her close family to come to her wedding; a wedding where she will be marrying herself.
The film takes on the structures of a romantic comedy, and yet Bollain is able to imbue this use of genre with a realism that truly contrasts with what we’ve been accustomed. American romantic comedies follow their structure to such a point that many films are indistinguishable. Bollain, coming from a practice of neo-realism in her films, achieves a truly refreshing hybrid that helps make her point. The comedic elements of the film help showcase the vulnerabilities of certain characters; specifically in Rosa’s Wedding with her siblings Armando (Sergi Lopez) and Violeta (Nathalie Poza). While these two characters seem to be the comedic reliefs at first, they are later revealed to be complex and tragic characters themselves. Armando has a marriage that is falling apart, whist Violeta is unable to recognize she has a drinking problem.
Bollain has never been one to shy away from the contradictions or uncomfortable complexities that her characters have; in fact she usually sees this as a way to make her films more relatable. This is why Rosa becomes such an appealing protagonist, while she seems to be an angel for carrying through so many unwanted chores, she also puts unfair pressure on her own daughter Lidia (Paula Usero). Bollain relishes to have each of these characters, with their respective insecurities and worries, clash in the setting and structure of a romantic comedy. It makes for the playing out of certain tropes, like the chase through public transport, the near cancellation of plans, or emotional declarations to be all the more original and intriguing. Instead of making confessional scenes seem cheesy, as many American romantic comedies inevitably do, Rosa’s Wedding turns these moments into therapeutic events. Each issue and character is dealt honestly and with respect, making their problems be recognized for their own weight and pain.
Seeing the exploration of these seeming simple issues in such an overused genre betrays the complex balance that Bollain has achieved; from the subtleties and strength of the script, to, specifically, the stellar cast. Each performer is able to bring such a level of nuance, layers, and truth to their characters that one is empathetic which each one of them. There are no villains or guilty parties in the film at all, events simply play out due to the characteristics of each person. Peña is absolutely stellar in showcasing Rosa’s transformation from invisible and exploited girl to independent and happy woman; she truly seems invisible in the first half of the film and then slowly begins to fade in a smile and a stronger posture seeming like a different person by the end. Lopez is able to relish his comedic lines especially, but also doesn’t shy away from showing his character’s vulnerabilities when it comes time to do so. Usero, as Rosa’s daughter, was a big surprise, with the actress getting her big break in this film and showcasing an incredible talent that must truly be followed. The standout for me, however, was Pozas. While the character of Violeta has an equal amount of comedic lines as Armando, Pozas is able to give an unimaginable dimension to her character so that even though one laughs at her great line delivery, she also showcases a hidden darkness and pain that is never fully explained – nor does it need to be. And it is this last aspect where Bollain is most effective with her films.
Bollain’s films always end on a general hopeful note, but never really fully resolving her characters’ conflicts. This allows her socio-political commentary to have a light and digestible ending, while also showcasing that the problems are not fully solved. This gives viewers not only a sense of realism, but also a duty and responsibility to take on these problems and attempt to find a solution. Bollain does the same with Rosa’s Wedding, but instead of appealing to changes in attitude towards immigrants, domestic abuse, or imperialism, she is asking for a self-appreciation and introspection to occur in each individual.
In the end, Rosa’s Wedding is a film that could be dissected infinitely for all the psychological details and subtleties that are littered throughout. Bollain is able to craft an incredibly affective film, reaching out to the blind routines that western urbanites have imposed on themselves and asking to pause and look up. Specifically, in a time where the entire world was forced to stop, viewers should be taken advantage and apply such introspections. With an absolutely stellar cast, expert writing, and a fabulous mix of comedy, drama, and near-parody, Rosa’s Wedding is not only one of the year’s best, but a necessary viewing for everyone.