Pepa lives in a seaside town, scratching out a living selling tickets to a seedy nightclub. She shares a house with her friend Rosario, who ends up caring for Pepa’s young daughter, Leila. When Pepa spends one too many nights out on the town instead of caring for Leila, Rosario throws her out, telling her that she needs to step up to the plate as a mother. For the next 48 hours mother and daughter wander the streets, trying to find accommodation. Meanwhile, Pepa ignores calls from her own mother back in Seville.
Ama is Júlia de Paz’s first feature film as a solo director and will undoubtedly ensure her place at the table. A masterful screenplay by de Paz and Nuria Dunjó gives a solid foundation to the two astonishing lead performances. Relative newcomer Tamara Casellas is heartachingly authentic as Pepa. Young actor Leire Marin Vara as Leila gives a performance that is nothing short of extraordinary. Her naturalness, combined with what is clearly expert direction from de Paz gives Ama almost the feel of a documentary.
The choice of title is a clever one: “ama” in Spanish means mother, female boss, and also love. Motherhood is explored and presented without a trace of sentimentality. There are scenes which any mothers would find uncomfortably recognizable. And although the background to the narrative is the social difficulty of being a working-class single parent in Spain, the emotional and psychological toll of motherhood itself is front-and-centre.
Ama has heart, warmth, and charm. It also has toughness, and doesn’t shy away from the confronting. Ultimately it is cautiously optimistic, and incredibly moving.
Casellas won Best Actress, at the Málaga Spanish Film Festival for her performance, and no wonder.
This is one of the must-see films of 2022.
Ama is screening as part of the Moro Spanish Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend.
Click here for further details and to book tickets.