Solas Movie Review
As one of the countless workers living in the city slums, María has nothing but contempt for her mother and her past, even though she has not done better with her life. But when María's father (a bully who keeps María from attending college and treats her mother like property) is hospitalized in the city and her mother is forced to stay in María's apartment for some weeks, María is forced to appreciate her mother and face her own shortcomings.
While María's troubles and her obsession with her own poverty could have made for a one-dimensional screed, writer/director Zambrano chooses to focus the camera on acts of humanity and generosity (which are most important among the poor). María insists that "everyone just looks after their own pocket," but all around her are exceptions, especially María's elderly neighbor (Carlos Álvarez-Novoa, who currently appears in Lucia, Lucia). The story ultimately narrows to focus on the friendship of María and the neighbor, and the film derives most of its punch from the powerful performances of Fernández and Álvarez-Novoa.
The acting in Solas is strong throughout. Álvarez-Novoa gives a perfect portrayal of an old man maintaining dignity in the face of age and loneliness. Paco de Osca, who plays María's father, manages to take a bad human being with little depth and no redeeming qualities and make him understandable, if not a sympathetic character.
Though not much fun to watch, Solas is an effective and believable portrayal of individuals struggling against the endemic poverty of Spain. There are many causes of misery in life, but as the film's ending makes clear, there are also unexpected sources of redemption.