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CANNES 2018 Directors’ Fortnight

Review: Petra

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- CANNES 2018: Jaime Rosales crafts a sophisticated tragedy with classical undertones, which looms ominously over a rich family of artists tainted by lies, abuse, secrets and cruelty

Review: Petra
Bárbara Lennie and Álex Brendemühl in Petra

Fate is unpredictable, unstoppable and cruel. Homer was fully aware of this, and history and time certainly both serve to underpin said assertion. Petra [+see also:
trailer
interview: Jaime Rosales
film profile
]
 is the main character in the new film by Jaime Rosales and lends the film its title. She is a woman who, after the death of her mother, goes off in search of her unknown father, and in doing so, she comes face to face with a world that, far from being perfect and thus filling in the gaps of her incomplete identity, will lead her down unthinkable and dreadful rocky roads. But this odyssey that, on paper, may sound like a runaway soap opera is brought under control by the director of Beautiful Youth [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jaime Rosales
film profile
]
 with a calm, steady, graceful and sophisticated hand. In it, the human coexists harmoniously alongside the intangible, and Rosales injects a ghostly aura into what is, in this author’s opinion, one of the best works by this filmmaker who has returned to the Cannes Film Festival for the fifth time to present his sixth film in the Directors’ Fortnight

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Starring the magnificent Bárbara Lennie (who breathes life into the titular woman and whom we saw not long ago looking for her mother in Ramón Salazar’s Sunday’s Illness [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ramón Salazar
film profile
]
), Álex Brendemühl (who previously performed in The Hours of the Day, Rosales’ feature debut), Petra Martínez (another familiar face in the Barcelona-born director’s filmography, excelling in Solitary Fragments [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), the young and highly promising actor Oriol Pla and the delightful Marisa Paredes in a brief, restrained but crushingly powerful role, Petra alternates these hard-working actors with a cast of non-professionals (the most noteworthy of whom is Joan Botey) who bring a certain truth and spontaneity to a storyline that constantly strives to avoid tumbling into the depths of obvious melodrama. 

Rosales – who penned the screenplay together with Michel Gaztambide (No Rest for the Wicked [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) and Clara Roquet (Long Distance [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlos Marques-Marcet
film profile
]
) – has managed to tame this wild narrative shot through with the utmost cruelty, in which psychological abuse ends up being more painful to endure than a Bullet in the Head [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
(to quote the title of another film by the director, who almost always incorporates the routine intrusion of violence in his works).

Likewise, we should highlight the dazzling cinematography by Héléne Louvart (who camouflages even the darkest of toxic elements), the engrossing soundtrack by Kristian Selin Eidnes Andersen and the production design by Victoria Paz Álvarez in this feature, where the meandering and graceful movement of the camera as it glides and sweeps through the scenes and the captivating soundscape are the icing on the cake of this portrait capturing how each and every decision we make – correct or not – has a powerful effect on those around us.

Petra, with dialogue spoken in both the Spanish and Catalan languages, was shot in the province of Girona and Madrid, and was produced by Spain, Denmark and France, via Fresdeval FilmsWanda VisiónOberón CinematográficaLes Productions Balthazar and Snowglobe. Its international sales are managed by Barcelona-based sales agent Film Factory.

(Translated from Spanish)

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