Directed by Benito Zambrano, starring Ana Fernández, María Galiana and Carlos Alvarez Novoa.
While her father recovers from an operation in a Seville hospital, María (Fernandez) receives an unwelcome guest in the form of her elderly mother Rosa (Galiana). Maria fled the family's rural home many years earlier, but has failed to put the past behind her in any way. She despises her father (with, it turns out, good reason), but metes out the same treatment to her mother, a gentle, wise woman who has faced the wrath of her husband alone since María's departure. With her daughter away half the day and most of the night at either the local bar or her dead end job, Rosa is left in a crumbling apartment with just her knitting for company. But friendship arrives in the form of María's neighbour, Nachbar (Novoa), a widower who provides her with a sympathetic ear and a snapshot of the life she could have had.
Winner of 14 awards (including 5 Goyas in his native Spain and the Ecumenical Prize at the Berlin festival) Zambrano's film is a tender and tragic look at the imperfections of family life and the dilemmas which exist for both the young and old. The first 25 minutes are incredibly grim: María seems little more than a hard living ingrate with her mother coming across as a punch bag for her wrath. But when the character of Nachbar is introduced, Zambrano brilliantly unwraps the women's lives. María, it transpires, is far more fragile than she can admit while her mother emerges as a wily survivor of anything life – or her husband – threw at her.
While the scenes between the two women move are deeply moving, it is the relationship between Rosa and Nachbar which give the film its heart. Both Galiana and Novoa are superb in the roles, providing some warm respites amidst the ruins of María's life. The notion of 'what if' runs through all their conversations and the sense of humour in the midst of their terrible loneliness ensures that 'Solas' never feels too sorry for itself. By the close they reach an understanding of each other, which, you imagine, most couples can only dream about, their friendship ultimately providing María with an insight into the important things in life.
A wonderful film and one that shows just how much growing up US cinema has left to do. You'll find the ending a little too perfect for the emotional trauma that preceded it, but you won't keep a dry eye as the credits roll.