on September 08, 2000 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
   In his first feature film, "Solas (Alone)," Spanish writer-director Benito Zambrano crafts a lovely little film that utterly captures the sadness and poignancy of people cut off from the world and the additional heartbreak that comes from having to be strong within that isolation. Although the plot hardly covers new territory and Zambrano shamelessly uses any number of sentimental devices (a dog, a cuddly mother, a dying father, an aging widower), the beauty of this gem is that these never come across as the least bit manipulative or shoddy. With powerful performances from its leading ladies, "Solas" rings emotionally--and painfully--true.

   In an unnamed city in the Andalusian part of Spain, unemployed thirtysomething Maria (Ana Fernandez) seethes with frustration and fear at finding herself pregnant, with an indifferent boyfriend and her simple, good-hearted mother (Maria Galiana) arrived fresh from the country. Taking a job as a cleaning woman, Maria rages by day while drinking up a storm by night as her mother daily visits Maria's bellicose father who is recovering from surgery in the hospital. The classic generational divide seems to afflict the women, as neither is able to reach the other in their troubles until an unexpected meeting with a neighbor offers change.

   A multi-award winner abroad (including five Goyas from Spain's Academy of Arts and Sciences), "Solas'" strengths lie within the nuanced details provided by Fernandez and Galiana, as well as Zambrano's careful pacing and focus. The director shifts the perspective just slightly so that what begins as Maria's story of anger and outrage melds into the gentle sorrow and integrity of her mother and finally the hope and dignity of the stranger who enters their lives. Yet the story remains firmly rooted in the women's frustration and their ultimate triumph, echoing the closing musical cut "Woman's World" and sending one out the door with a smile through the haze of tears.    Starring Ana Fernandez, Maria Galiana and Carlos Alvarez-Novoa. Directed and written by Benito Zambrano. Produced by Antonio P. Perez. An IDP release. Drama. Spanish-language; subtitled. Unrated Running time: 102 min.

Tags: Starring Ana Fernandez, Maria Galiana, Carlos Alvarez-Novoa. Directed, written by Benito Zambrano, Produced by Antonio P. Perez, IDP, Drama

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