Ojos Negros is an interesting film from a sometimes shaky story that nevertheless provides ample evidence that there is a lot of potential in all areas of production and acting.

Paula (Julia Llana) overhears her parents arguing about her summer holidays and who should take her dad can’t and mum is planning to send her to the family village - Ojos Negros - which she hasn’t been to for years. As the conversation turns into a full-blown row, your heart goes out to Paula (in a perfectly controlled sequence) as she listens, in silence, to the row escalate.

Driven in to the town by her aunt they arrive at the family home which is starting to show its age; not backward but well used. Introduced to her grandmother there’s some confusion as to who she is but greets her as she would close member of the family.

Settling into the routine of small-town life Paula spies out some of the local kids a mixture of summer vacationers and locals. She befriends them and drifts towards Alicia (Alba Alcaine), who is a regular summer visitor from Zaragoza. Alicia draws Paula out and they get up to pranks; knock down ginger and letting the dog loose, all very childish but then they are children.

They establish a bond though questionable whether it is a friendship as soon Alicia isn’t sure if she will return next year and there is some reluctance to maintain contact past the summer. And that is how it is left until Alicia calls on Paula to say goodbye while she is out, who then chases after to say a very awkward goodbye.

Circulating around this is her aunt’s resentment that her sister left the town and her to look after their mother, which comes to a head when Paula’s mother arrives to pick her up and see her ailing mother.

The film is short but drifts a bit after the half-hour following a promising start with Paula’s visible despair at her parents’ row, and her introduction to Alicia. The girls’ friendship is left hanging and that’s just the ways things are sometimes, whatever Paula’s expectations may have been. And sometimes these things are flat with no ceremony; that’s life and the hard experience of growing up. The family bickering and resentment element pad out the running time and is much less satisfying.

A genuinely collaborative student project for their final degree Ojos Negros is produced with some skill by the writers and directors Iván Alcarón, Ivet Castelo, Sandra García and Marta Llana. The almost documentary style camerawork records marvellous images of Spanish rural life over the long summer holidays and las fiestas which I know so well.

Ojos Negros was presented at the London Spanish Film Festival

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