Film Review: Las Hijas de Abril | April’s Daughters (2017).

Las hijas de Abril | April's Daughter

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5.

Author: Sofía Murell | Runtime: 93 min. | Director: Michel Franco | Year: 2017.

This story is beautiful and crazy at the same time. Las hijas de Abril | April’s Daughters sheds light on issues about the rights of a teenage mother, the concept of being a ‘mother’ and the power of women.

The film presents Valeria (Ana Valeria Becerril) a teenage girl that lives in Puerto Vallarta together with her step-sister Clara (Joanna Larequi) in a house close to the beach. Valeria is pregnant and does not want to tell her mother. Clara who seems to have accumulated an immense fury towards the situation decides to tell their mother Abril (Emma Suárez). Abril is a Spanish woman who loves yoga and is well-off. As she is retired and has spare time, she decides to stay with Valeria and help her in whatever she can. Initially, Abril seems supportive but as time goes by she becomes more authoritarian and obsessive over the baby.

The film won the Jury Prize at the Un Certain Regard section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.  Las hijas de Abril is directed by Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco who is known for another Cannes winner: Chronic (2015).

The film stars Emma Suárez who you can recognize from Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta (2016) where she played the role of a mother. In Las hijas de Abril, Suárez delivers a great performance by depicting a loving but obsessive selfish mother. Another style of ‘mother’ is the one interpreted by Ana Valeria Becerril as the emotions of joy, despair and fear are captured not only through her excellent acting skills but also by the medium and close-up shots that give us a glimpse of her expressive face. Contrary to expressive, Clara’s face appears numbed the whole time. Clara has a minor role in the whole dilemma and is an accomplice of what happens to Valeria’s daughter. She draws our attention as Joanna Larequi’s character seems to have lost all joy of life altogether and is just a conformist who is carried by the protagonist with the strongest temperament. Clara’s disappointed expression speaks thousands of words about her and her situation. Her dissatisfaction leads her to make drastic decisions that have horrible repercussions for Valeria and also for her.  The cast, in general, was a great selection as all the actors shine on their own.

What jumps to the eye at first instance are the strong female protagonists. Men are put aside and women take control of their body, relationships, and their future. Even the conformist Clara takes action by for example helping her mother or calling her. However, Mateo (Enrique Arrizon) – Valeria’s boyfriend – is just a follower. First, he follows his lust and love-crush. Later on, he follows Abril’s money and commands as he ends up taking yoga classes and changes his lifestyle. This, however, is questionable, as he is a minor and can be blinded by his love for his daughter and the power of Abril, a wealthy middle-aged woman. The other men in the narrative are the fathers of Valeria and Clara who are absent. As a spectator, we do not know about Clara’s father, and the only thing we know about Valeria’s father is that he does not want to contact her. In a moment when she needs him, he does not help her, which makes Valeria strong and decisive as her mother and father seem absent from her life – reinforcing the idea of a powerful young woman who is determined to get her daughter back.

The location in Puerto Vallarta provides a beautiful cinematography, although, the film focusses on three locations, and mainly on the inside of the protagonists’ houses that remark the different economic capital of each family.

Las hijas de Abril is a drama in which its potential lies in the actor’s skills and its narrative. The film is a beautiful ode to the love of a mother and her desire for being with her child no matter what the circumstances. Las hijas de Abril won’t disappoint and certainly won’t bore you.

In Dutch theatres as from the 18th of January 2018.

Genre: Drama | Language: Spanish | Dutch Distributor: September Film.

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