Set in rural Argentina, Paula tells the tale of a nanny for a wealthy, middle-class family. When she unexpectedly falls pregnant she searches, quietly but increasingly desperately, for help. Providing a deep insight into Argentinean society (governed strictly by class and gender politics) and beautifully retelling an age-old story, Paula is an excellent and accomplished debut.
Expertly filmed and with special attention paid to sound, director Eugenio Canevari has created a truly captivating film. Paula’s struggles, her growing desperation and isolation as her pregnancy grows more and more obvious are thrown into sharp relief against the background of the family she works for, but even they are far from happy. Her employers are constantly bemoaning the fact that they have children, rarely spending time with them and sending them to Paula as soon as they are anything less than perfect. They take on the role of villains in the story, denying Paula any help or sympathy, but even in the face of such adversity Paula is nothing less than professional and the same can be said of the film itself. It is never over-dramatic; rather it is calm, compact.
Played expertly by Denise Labbate, Paula is a quiet, pensive girl, magnetic and wholly absorbing as a character whose struggles are painful to watch. At times, briefly, she is an open book but rarely is the audience clued into her true thoughts on her predicament and the people she is surrounded by. Viewers are forced to draw their own conclusions about her from facial expressions and body language alone. The minimal dialogue, long stretches of silence and lingering shots all serve to draw attention to these subtleties that tell the true story.
The short run-time and lack of unnecessary side-stories make Paula a rarity these days and with such a compelling performance, this slice of life drama is not one to be missed.
Paula does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Paula here: