QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM SAN SEBASTIAN
Julia (Ana Castillo) is aged 22 and the mother of two young children. She lives with her father in the suburbs of a large Spanish city, unidentifiable to my eyes. One day, she moves in with her two children into a tiny apartment with the butch and deeply narcissistic Oscar (Orial Pla). The children have to sleep on a mattress on the floor next to the mother and her lover. Oscar has little time for Julia’s offspring: he fights with them over a remote control. His favourite entertainment is to pose in front of the mirror while proudly admiring his large muscles and myriad tattoos. And he is pathologically jealous of Ana. The young man has a violent outburst when Ana briefly interacts with an old acquaintance, whom he accuses of flirting with her. He embodies hypocrisy: he happily assaults his partner for allegedly allowing a man to hit on her, while claiming immunity to such behaviour (in other words, he has the right to flirt with other women). A story of toxic masculinity domestic abuse tragically known to many a woman. Julia reports the aggression to the police and hesitantly moves on, but a pattern of dysfunctional relationships and banal emotional catharses continue to shape her life.
Our protagonist returns to her previous lover and the father of her two children: a man called Marcos (Quim Avila). He too is butch and covered in ink, however kind and paternal. A different type of masculinity: he irons his shirt to the sound of an aria. Julia had separated from Marcos because he was posted to work as a soldier in another region of Spain, where she has now moved with the children. Despite his military background, Marcos’s fallibility does not come in the shape of brutality. Instead it shines through his injudiciousness: he loses their daughter in a game of hide and seek. Once again, Julia has to resort to the police, who go on a frantic search for the young girl. This presumably triggers Julia to leave the father of her children for the second time. Presumably. This is just one of the many plot holes in this drama.
Old school friend Alex (Lluis Marques) completes the triptych of Julia’s lovers. He too has a daughter, ensuring that the couple bond through parenthood. They move in together and Julia becomes pregnant with yet another child just as the pandemic hit and shut Spain down. Alex and Julia’s relationship becomes tense and paralysed with fear. Will our hapless and unstable protagonist finally settle down, or will she once again succumb to the mistakes or her lovers, and her inability to confront them? Will her children be punished yet again by abruptly moving home a having to start afresh in yet another tiny suburban apartment? Wild Flowers is a credible tale of imperfect and yet resilient motherhood.
While palpable, this 107-minute-long film is also mostly predictable. After the first quarter of an hour, you will probably be able to guess what happens in the remaining 92 minutes. The trials and the tribulations of Julia are not exceptional in any way, shape or form. Nor is Wild Flowers. This is a very conventional and easily digestible film. One that will stay with you for a duration of time inferior to Julia’s short-lived romances.
Wild Flowers has just premiered as part of the Official Competition of the 70th San Sebastian International Film Festival. Jaimes Rosales is well known in the European festival circuit, with three of his six previous feature films premiering in Cannes. I doubt his latest creation will blossom outside Spain.