Food and Shelter (Techo y Comida) is the first feature from Juan Miguel del Castillo. An experienced editor and director of shorts, Castillo has chosen for his directorial debut a subject that is far from glamorous: the social and economic decline of contemporary Spain.
Reminiscent of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, this film follows a few weeks in the life of Rocio, a young, single mother of an eight-year-old son. Rocio has been out of work for over three years, is months behind in her rent, and is living on odd jobs, garbage-picking and the generosity of her neighbour. Castillo refuses to force any plot on to the work, allowing Rocio’s situation to unfold in documentary style. Rocio’s worst moments of small humiliation become almost voyeuristically uncomfortable when handled in Castillo’s stark style.
Natalia de Molina shines as Rocio, her performance winning her both the Goya for Best Actress and the Malaga Audience Prize. She will surely become one of the greats of Spanish cinema. Veteran actor Mariana Cordero is wonderful as Maria, the generous neighbour, and young Jaime Lopez makes his extraordinary debut as Rocio’s son, Adrian. There are many cinematically beautiful moments between characters.
This film is quite linear, giving us a series of moments in a life, and then leaving us at a certain moment. Nothing is resolved, nothing is satisfactory. We are left with statistics about homelessness and poverty in Spain.
Adding to the stark realism is Castillo’s choice not to use any music, except at the end, and his use of a neutral, but not bleak, art direction.
Spanish cinema is in good hands.
Reviewed by TraceyKorsten
Rating out of 10: 9
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