TIFF '22 Review: El Agua combines the power of women and water

TIFF ’22 Review: El Agua combines the power of women and water

A scene from the movie “El Agua” provided in TIFF format.

El Agua tells the story of a young woman whose nascent romance is threatened by outside forces, including a generational myth that threatens her life.

Local legends are like oral stories. Even if they are not entirely correct, they can tell a lot about the people and their place of origin. Superstitions, on the other hand, can hold people back or be used to oppress others. In small towns, everyone knows everything about everyone, and even the slightest connection to a curse can leave a mark on a person or family for generations. Once this happens, it is very difficult to overcome or erase from people’s minds. AT El Aguathe teenager is bathed in new love, which may be interrupted by local lore.

Ana (Luna Pamies) spends the summer with her friends, including José (Alberto Olmo), a hometown boy who has returned from a trip abroad. The couple soon start a relationship, and soon after, people warn José to stay away from her – the women in her family are cursed. Ana’s grandmother (Nieve De Medina) is a widow but still very much alive, while her mother (Barbara Lenny) owns a bar and dates out-of-towners, also unaware of their reputation. Ana, however, has heard these rumors all her life and is not convinced that they are untrue. There is a local legend that the water falls in love with the women in the city, eventually bringing heavy rains and taking it for itself. The Chosen One feels water deep inside her all the time…just like Ana.

This is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a curse, or the fact that strong women are persecuted for being non-standard. However, after hearing something long enough, it’s hard not to wonder if it could be true. Ana has heard the legends all her life, and as the pouring rain approaches the Spanish countryside, her sense of dread grows stronger. Water appears throughout the story, from bathing pits to bathtubs and irrigating the lemon groves where José works. The water is always there…always watching – perhaps even jealous of Ana’s newfound love.

The debut feature film from director Elena López Riera mixes knowledge and love, because both can seem fantastic in their own way. Most of the cast was drawn from local non-actors, though you can’t tell by their performances, which seem sincere rather than forced. Throughout the film, real-life women from the village of Riera tell the legend of the water and her bride as they know her, showing the differences and similarities of a story passed down from generation to generation. One narrator is even convinced that she saw the ghost of a disappeared woman, and Riera did not consider it her duty to try to tell her that this was not true.

Even if Ana is a little older, it still feels like a coming-of-age story in which a young woman struggles to define herself in the face of all the labels others have placed on her, including a legend she has taken very much to heart. .

El Agua premiered in North America on Contemporary World Cinema at Toronto International Film Festival.

Read other reviews from the festival.

Producer: Elena Lopez Riera
Starring: Luna Pamies, Nieves de Medina as well as Barbara Lenny

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