|a mi madre le gustan las mujeres
(my mother likes women)
Written and Directed by: Daniela
Fejerman and Inés París
There appear to be two schools of filmmaking in Spain: the films
of Pedro Almodovar, and the films of directors who wish they were
This is one of the latter - a mish-mash of good ideas, some good
and bad writing and a cast of quirky characters who try way too
hard to be endearingly neurotic. Very Pedro, just not as good.
My Mother Likes Women has two major plots, both
of which intertwine in the end to create the story of Elvira and
how she grows up to accept not only her mother's interest in women,
but her own tendency towards counterproductive, destructive behaviour.
This behaviour has ruined her life (romantically and otherwise)
until this point, but until now she's been so blind she can't
Elvira is seductively charming, played by Leonore Watling in
the Audrey Tautou mould. She's also hopeless, frazzled and seems
to suffer from an alarming case of middle-child syndrome. By this
I mean she is dominated by her siblings to the point of harrassment,
while also being the child her parents overlooked, simply because
she was probably the least demanding.
Elvira's mother Sofia, a noteworthy pianist, announces to Elvira
and her two siblings (older sister Gimena and younger sister Sol)
that she has fallen in love with a woman named Eliska who is Czech,
speaks little Spanish and is twenty years her junior. It's hard
to tell what the daughters despise more; Eliska's immigrant and
impoverished status, her inability to communicate, her lesbianism
or her age. All we know is they feel the need to band together
and callously plot to ruin Sophia's blossoming relationship. The
plan? To trick Eliska into sleeping with someone else and thereby
destroying Sophia's fragile trust.
At first the sisters are unable to find a stranger to seduce
Eliska - despite a trip to one of the weirdest lesbian bars I've
ever seen. The experience excites the sharp-tongued and precocious
Sol, who then takes it upon herself to try and seduce her mother's
girlfriend. The attempt is so heavy handed and humiliating it
is quite painful to watch. Needless to say, it is also unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Elvira begins a tentative relationship with an author
from the publishing house where she works. She herself is a frustrated
novelist who is unable to get anyone, especially her snide, selfish
boss, to read her finished manuscript. The author, Miguel, is
attracted to Elvira's creative and beautiful personality, but
is also repelled by her immature and inexplicably rude bahaviour.
Elvira eventually begins to understand what her mother sees in
Eliska when the young woman offers kindness where she has been
shown none. Eliska and Elvira share a night on the town and a
tentative friendship begins to seem possible. However, in a moment
of drunken passion Elvira inadvertantly manages to succeed where
Sol did not. Elvira and Eliska share an inebriated kiss, but Eliska
shys away when Elvira indicates she wants to do more.
Humilated, Elvira begs Eliska not to tell Sophia what happened,
which leaves Eliska with no alibi for where she has spent the
night. Eliska transparently lies to Sophia and the seeds of doubt
are born. When Eliska tries to tell the truth Elvira denies it,
throwing suspicion upon Eliska and her motives. Finally, seeing
no other choice, Eliska unhappily decides to leave and return
to her native Prague.
Sophia becomes desperately unhappy and emotionally unstable without
Eliska. Seeing the error and selfishness of their ways, the three
daughters launch a mission to Prague to rectify their mistakes
and hopefully bring some happiness back into their mother's life.
Like many European films My Mother Likes Women
likes to walk the tightrope between serious drama and farcical
comedy. Unfortunately it's easy to get confused about which is
meant to be which, and I'm afraid I may have laughed out loud
in the wrong places. Whatever.
A director with more talent would have played more with the complex
nature of her characters. The Spanish do have a talent for being
delightfully inappropriate though, and this film is no exception.
This quality is borne out most through the elder and younger sisters
who are just too calculating and crass for words. All three actresses
playing the sisters are perfect and play off each other with wicked
What ruins the film is the supposed lesbian relationship. Ultimately
the success of the film lies in how much we care about the wronged
lovers, and quite frankly I didn't give a toss about them. The
lovers were portrayed as more of a mother/daughter or even teacher/student
relationship than anything else, with moments of tenderness and
intimacy played so cool and remote I didn't believe for a second
these two had ever done anything so intimate as share a cup of
coffee let alone be naked in bed together. The hottest kiss in
the film is the one shared by Elivira and Eliska. Screw the mother,
I was disappointed the film didn't just do a huge U-turn and make
Elivira and Eliska a hot couple!
The relationship between Elvira and Miguel doesn't really work
either. I can't see what he could possibly be attracted to since
she's being a bitch to him almost every time they're together.
But he's obviously hooked from the beginning and it is up to Elvira
to simply reel him in to provide the film's too-pretty ending.
The really excellent moments, including a fabulous song sung
by Sol and her punk band that provides the title for the film,
are too few and far between to make this an outstanding film.
It is an interesting exercise in farce that in particular highlights
the talents of Watling, who is a gifted comedienne. I find it
odd to be criticising a European film for its lack of passion
or intimacy. The Europeans generally don't shy away from confrontational
sexuality, gay or straight. That's what makes this film so confusing.
The filmmakers give the actresses free reign in every other aspect
of the film. Unfortunately though, in the end the one thing I
don't believe is that the mother really likes women.
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