The Sleeping Voice (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/10/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 128 mins

Superbly written and featuring terrific performances from Maria Leon and Inma Cuesta, this is a powerfully emotional Spanish melodrama that tells an important story.

What's it all about?
Directed by Benito Zambrano, The Sleeping Voice (La Voz Dormida, original language fans) is based on the best-selling novel by Dulce Chacon and set in Franco's Madrid in 1940, during the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Maria Leon stars as Pepita, who leaves her home village in Cordoba in order to be near her seven-month pregnant older sister Hortensia (Inma Cuesta, looking a lot like Penelope Cruz) who's been imprisoned in Ventas jail and is facing execution (delayed until the birth of her baby) for her involvement with the Resistance movement and its charismatic leader Felipe (Daniel Holguin), the father of her baby.

Enlisted to deliver forged identity papers to the outlaws (who are hiding out in the mountains), Pepita finds herself falling for Felipe's handsome second-in-command Paulino (Marc Clotet) and the pair begin a tentative relationship. Meanwhile, Hortensia and her fellow inmates attempt to ensure that her baby will be handed over to Pepita instead of taken away from her and placed in an orphanage.

The Good
Maria Leon (who won Best Actress at the San Sebastian Film Festival and is best known in Spain for her sitcom work) is wonderful as Pepita, creating a fully rounded character who's both politically naïve and a little bit slow on the uptake (her thick Andalusian accent and distinctive line delivery are likely to be lost on English audiences, but it's the UK equivalent of a West Country accent) but also fiercely devoted to her sister and brimming with love and kindness. Inma Cuesta is equally good as Hortensia and there's strong support from Holguin and Clotet as well as a host of Spanish character actresses as Hortensia's fellow inmates.

The film tells an important story (Chacon's novel is drawn from real-life testimony) that, until very recently, has been largely ignored in Spanish history. That said, Zambrano goes for full-on melodrama in his storytelling, though it's no less effective for that, with several emotionally devastating scenes.

The Great
The production design is superb, convincingly recreating 1940s Madrid and not shying away from the horrors of Ventas jail. There's also a superb guitar-based score from Magda Rosa Galván and Juan Antonio Leyva.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, The Sleeping Voice is a powerfully emotional, three-hankie weepy of a Spanish melodrama with a star-making performance from Maria Leon. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 18/07/2018 20:56

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