Las Hijas de Abril (April’s Daughter)
Michel Franco has produced a wonderfully outrageous drama about a mother who relives parenthood through her 17-year-old daughter’s baby. Any suggestion, however, that this is a cute, wholesome tale should be immediately discouraged. Recently lead in Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta, Emma Suárez gives a deliciously hateful performance as the cold, devilish April whose moral compass evaporates as she returns to haunt her children’s lives.
Sisters Clara (Joanna Larequi) and Valeria (Ana Valeria Becerril) live together in a picturesque villa in Puerto Vallarta. They suitably contrast one another: Clara is reserved, placid and fat; Valeria is outgoing, proud and pregnant. A clever, deceptive opening scene shows us Valeria’s large bump after she’s made plenty of noise in the bedroom. She doesn’t have contractions and her nice, nondescript boyfriend Mateo (Enrique Azzo) idly follows behind topless. There are no parents around until April shows up. Valeria is seven months gone and was keeping the news from her mother, frightened as she was of the reaction. If only she knew. At first, April is caring, supportive and funny. Why hadn’t Valeria asked for assistance earlier? April’s distance from her children seems borne of a healthy independence rather than neglect and everyone appears grateful for the helping hand during the final stage of the pregnancy. But when the baby Karen arrives April’s demeanour changes. She becomes possessive of the newborn, signs adoption papers and whisks Mateo off to Mexico City to start a yoga business. Has she lost her mind? Or is she doing what’s right by the child? There’s a likely answer here.
From the beginning, Franco wittily drops hints of April’s gradual transformation from compassionate sweetheart to wicked banshee – Clara is put on a diet immediately, for example – and teases us constantly as to where the narrative is heading. Character motivations are generally left unexplored and inexplicable occurrences move the plot along without much hope of a justification. But this doesn’t inhibit our enjoyment, as the odd decisions turn perplexing and then jaw-dropping. If April is the purely callous villain of the piece, Mateo is the incomprehensible idiot. Never has been a more naïve and stupid man put to screen; he is a triumph of unbelievable self-absorption and impotence. We sorely wish to see the amoral pair’s absolute comeuppance and it is testament to Valeria’s maturity – in a deliberate riposte to April – that she claims back her right to motherhood without knocking their lights out.
Las Hijas de Abril (April’s Daughter) does not yet have a UK release date.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2017 visit here.
Watch a clip from Las Hijas de Abril (April’s Daughter) here: