El Planeta (2021)

Image via sff.org.au

This artful satire by writer/director/star Amalia Ulman almost works but I couldn’t help feeling I was missing the point.

Real-life mother/daughter duo Ale and Amalia Ulman play a middle-class mother and daughter trying to maintain their lifestyle post Spain’s economic crisis. It’s as if they don’t understand what’s actually happened and adopt a daily routine of grift, theft and delusion to keep themselves going.

Daughter Leo (Amalia) has some earning capacity as a stylist but, stuck in Spain after returning after the death of her father, she doesn’t have enough money to chase work in more happening places, particularly when the main compensation is ‘exposure.’ Mother Maria (Ale) has shades of Grey Gardens (1975) about her, with her scarves and furs and big sunglasses. She also seems to miss her cat more than her late husband and her relationship with Leo is sisterly rather than maternal.

There is not much of a narrative, rather the two meander through different situations, occasionally connecting with each other or, in Leo’s case, with men who might give her money or affection. We get to know Leo a bit more, although there is not much depth to her character. The two of them are almost sociopathic in their lack of care for others.

It’s a wry and sometimes amusing satire of the shocked middle-class, I suspect, although I am not sure it is telling me much. The black and white cinematography is lovely and makes it feel a little out-of-time, centred only by the colour archival footage at the end. It is a feat, nonetheless, for a young writer/director and let’s hope Amalia Ulman has more to say.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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