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Lullaby – Glasgow Film Festival 2023 Review

Lullaby – Glasgow Film Festival 2023 Review

When we meet Amaia (Laia Costa), she’s just given birth to little Jone, and she’s exhausted. Her mother, Begoña (Susi Sánchez) and father, Koldo (Ramón Barea) come to help her and her partner Javi (Mikel Bustamente) during the first days out of hospital. Whilst she loves them, and is grateful for their support, her sadness when they leave is tinged with more than a little relief. Her parents, particularly the bulldozer that is Begoña, can be a lot to deal with.

But soon after they leave, Javi – a lighting designer for stage shows – accepts a job that will see him away from home for three weeks. Completely overwhelmed as it is, she and Jone head to her parents’ coastal home in desperate need of more help. During their stay there, Amaia comes to know Begoña and Koldo in a way that casts a new light on their whole relationship, as well as her own relationship with Javi.

From the very first moments of the very first scene, Lullaby – which also happens to be the very first feature from Spanish writer-director Alauda Ruíz de Azúa – is bursting with life. It’s immediately apparent how well Ruíz de Azúa understands the chaotic, aching contradictions of family; how quickly declarations of love can turn into a shouting match (and vice versa), how living with a person for decades makes every feeling towards them complicated, how cruel comments hurt so much more when they’re coming from someone who knows you intimately, and how painful arguments can be the key to deepening a relationship. It’s a cliché because it’s true – the line separating hate and love is a thin one, and it’s easily traversed.

Whilst this is a film that plays in an emotional high-key, there’s a lot of light in there too. Begoña’s formidableness leads to a wealth of wonderful little moments, like the murderous look she gives her husband when he has his feet up on the coffee table and she wants to get past him. The fierce way mother and daughter react to the irresponsible owner of a vicious dog in two separate scenes both establishes their closeness, and creates an amusing contrast with the gentler-natured patriarch, who’s sweetly awed by their ferocity. Although the tenor of any given scene in Lullaby can shift in a heartbeat, it’s just as often towards laughter as it is tears.

Under the inexperienced but eminently capable hands of Ruíz de Azúa, the three leads flourish, all bringing boundless light and shade to both their individual characters and their character’s bonds with each other – this is a movie that necessitates us believing in a long and difficult shared history, and their vivid performances make that an easy task. There may be nothing all that ground-breaking to Lullaby’s narrative (the age-old tale of parents and children switching places) but the immense care and honesty and complexity with which that tale is told by Ruíz de Azúa and her tremendous cast gives the film a powerful emotional resonance, strong enough to break the hardest of hearts and then patch them right back up again.

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Glasgow Film Festival runs from 1-12 March 2023

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