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It used to be the little sister that would wet on herself when her father had his fits of rage. After the parents’ separation, it’s now the cat, disoriented by all the changes, that pees everywhere, infuriating the mother who is trying to start over by renovating the house and getting rid of the leftovers of their past life with the abusive Martín; including the now cumbersome cat. When the elder daughter Eva suggests her father should take the cat, he shrugs off the idea and says an animal shelter would be better.
Likewise, in his newfound life as a single man with no responsibilities, Martín doesn’t seem as eager as Eva to find an apartment for both of them to live in. She also suffered from his violence, but having lost, if not her comfort zone at least her familiar marks, she now feels disoriented like the cat. And her way of rebelling is by clinging on to her father and his permissiveness, as she wishes to become an adult, smoking, drinking, exploring sex… and for him to be young again.
The troubling father-daughter complicity is at the heart of the first feature by Costa Rican filmmaker Valentina Maurel, whose shorts Paul est là (2017) and Lucia in Limbo (2019) revealed her talent and also a sensitivity that refuses a black and white approach to the complexity and paradox of life, especially while growing up – particularly for a woman.
Yes, the explosive Eva is yet another victim of violence – her father’s and society’s –, but she does not see herself as one. Right now, she feels like a victim of the divorce, even if it was a consequence of that violence. She is still holding on to ideals instead of facing things in all their unpleasantness and complexity.
Daniela Marín Navarro’s performance is sublime, as she impressively embodies all of Eva’s contradictions, doubts, fears, desires, pain and rage. On the way, she must discover herself, tame her own violence and forge her own identity and set of values, like any teenager, and understand her own desires – and not just what stereotypes, conventions and normalization made her think she was supposed to desire and accept – to eventually be able to judge for herself.
Maurel’s non-judgmental approach makes the exposition of violence even more striking, as she refuses to preach from an enlightened position, embracing the ambiguity of real life and relations, especially during teenage years. The nervous camera and editing are never a stylistic cliché, but always a pertinent reflection of the permanent instability and tension of the ticking time-bomb of Eva’s life.
First feature film for Valentina Maurel, who won the Cinefondation at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 with the diploma short Paul est là.