out of Five
Running time: 113
Impressively directed, emotionally engaging drama with terrific performances from Candela Pena and newcomer Micaela Nevárez.
What's it all about?
Directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, Princesses stars Candela Pena as Caye (short for Cayetana), a middle-class prostitute who makes her living in Madrid, with the help of her constantly ringing mobile phone. Her neighbour, Zulema (Micaela Nevarez) is an illegal immigrant from the Dominican Republic who works as a street prostitute, hoping to save enough money to bring over her young son.
Though her middle-class prostitute pals disparage the immigrants for under-cutting their prices, Caye nonetheless becomes friends with Zulema after taking her to hospital when one of her clients beats her up. As their relationship deepens, the two women share their hopes and desires and attempt to help each other out.
Both lead actresses deservedly won Goya Awards for their performances, with Candela Pena winning Best Actress and Micaela Nevarez taking Best Newcomer. Pena (All About My Mother, Take My Eyes) is heart-breaking as Caye, creating a character that we can really relate to – her scenes with Luis Callejo (as a prospective boyfriend) are genuinely moving.
Like Fernando Leon de Aranoa's previous film, the excellent Mondays In The Sun, Princesses owes a huge debt to the films of Ken Loach, particularly in its realistic depictions of the women's day to day lives. Indeed, the film could be seen as a companion piece to Mondays, which looked at the lives of a group of unemployed male factory workers.
There are several excellent scenes here and Aranoa refuses to sentimentalise, although the inclusion of a methadone-addicted character for comic relief doesn't quite work. In addition, there's also a terrific soundtrack courtesy of Gato Perez and Manu Chao, who contributed a number of catchy original songs, including Me llaman Caye and 5 Razones.
In short, Princesses is an emotionally engaging, terrifically acted drama that's a must-see for fans of Spanish cinema. Highly recommended.