So many movies nominated for Oscars this year are long, bloated and pretentious, so it’s especially pleasant right now to see a charming, low-key comedy-drama like Rosa’s Wedding, a new movie from Spain that opens throughout Israel on March 9.
Directed by Iciar Bollain, it tells a familiar story very well. Rosa (Candela Pena) lives in Valencia, where she has a high-pressure job as a seamstress who makes costumes for low-budget movies.
What is the movie about?
Friendly and interested in people, she is the kind of warm soul who people trust to take care of their pets and their plants when they go away – lots of people, as it turns out, in a funny scene early on. She tries to stay in touch with her daughter, Lidia (Paula Usero), who is raising twin babies in Manchester while her musician husband tours, but Lidia is so harried she can barely say hello.
Rosa’s siblings rely on her, too. Her brother, Armando (Sergi Lopez), has a failing business and a marriage that is clearly in trouble. Her sister, Violeta (Nathalie Poza), may seem to have a perfect life but has a drinking problem that has put her career as an interpreter at risk.
Both Armando and Violeta are able to bully Rosa into being the main caretaker of their father (Ramon Barea), who was widowed two years ago and whose health is beginning to fail. The whole family is grieving the loss of its matriarch, also a seamstress and designer, who used to make clothes in a workshop in her idyllic-looking beachfront hometown.
When Rosa’s father announces he is moving in with her, she has a kind of neat meltdown that will be familiar to anyone who has seen previous movies of this type. She grabs the latest cat she has agreed to take care of, gets in her car, and doesn’t stop driving until she is in front of her mother’s workshop which, conveniently, her family still owns although it hasn’t been used in years.
Looking around the place, she falls in love with it and what it represents for her – the memory of her mother and her own creativity, which she has put on the back burner for years.
When she asks her father if he can give her his share of the workshop, which would help her get the place going, he declines. She reminds him that he gave her siblings substantial financial help, but he says that was because they were getting married and starting new lives.
Deciding to stay there no matter what, she announces to her family that she is getting married, and they assume she is getting hitched with her boyfriend, who is nice enough but whom she barely sees. Eventually, they learn the truth – she is marrying herself, and swearing to be true to, and to honor herself.
While this may sound contrived and preachy, it is done quite gracefully and you get to like Rosa so much, you can go with the flow of her plan, thanks to Pena’s winning performance. She doesn’t overplay her stressed-out character at the beginning and she begins to blossom slowly but surely once she flees the hated job and the chores everyone piles on her. All the actors are good in their roles, but a movie like this rises or falls on the strength of its lead performance, and she nails it.
While the movie is often predictable, it is nevertheless enjoyable, and belongs squarely in the ever-growing genre of movies about middle-aged women making a major life transformation. The most prominent of these was probably When Stella Got Her Groove Back, in which a gorgeous, rich, barely 40-year-old heroine played by Angela Bassett got to have a vacation fling with a younger man portrayed by Taye Diggs.
But Rosa’s Wedding gives its heroine a more realistic life and a more realistic outcome. While her siblings may come off as selfish at first, the financial lives of all the family members are precarious. They all face limited, difficult choices, and this fact gives urgency to Rosa’s dilemma and makes you celebrate her small triumphs with her.