Lullaby ★★★ 1/2 – Glasgow Film Festival 2023

Lullaby ★★★ 1/2 – Glasgow Film Festival 2023

Alauda Ruiz De Azúa’s feature debut Lullaby is a packed portrait of a mother and daughter dynamic. This empathetic drama may tread on familiar grounds, but the more personal intimate nature of the film shines through. Thanks to the performances of Laia Costa and Susi Sanchez, we see the open imperfections of motherhood at all stages of one’s life.

Amaia has just become a mother and realises she doesn’t know how to be one. So when her partner goes away for several weeks because of his job, she decides to go to her parent’s house in a lovely coastal village in the Basque Country and share the responsibility of looking after her baby. 

You can have all the books in the world and watch all the videos that have ever existed; however, nothing prepares you for the stress of having a child. What gets you through those moments, though, are those who are around you; for better or worse, they are there. A connection that could easily be lost in the haze of nappies, feeding and sleeping. Azúa is here to show all of those wonderful complexities that revolve around parenting. At times bringing us in further than we would like to to see the intimate nature of raising a newborn. Even in scenes where changing a nappy, we are present. We take that step back only when the arguments start, but the intimacy still remains.

There very well could be a perfect way to raise a child, but it is in the imperfect moments that learning comes forward, and that is what is shown expertly by Alauda Ruiz De Azúa in Lullaby. There is a wonderful nuance to her film that show us the complexities of raising a child, not only in a mother’s relationship with her child but with her family and her friends. When the film focuses on the dynamic between mother and daughter, that is when it shines. Sure, other moments come and go in a daze during this period, and they have been captured well, but by zoning more on that relationship, we would gain even more than we already have from Lullaby.

Seeing the relationship between mother and daughter is intriguing in Lullaby; Amaia and Begoña are the core of the film; with similar personalities, there is automatic friction between them, and their imperfections show as clearly as day and the strain of having a newborn in the household only exacerbates the sniping and arguing between the two, even to the point where Begoña would comment on her daughter’s looks, after just giving birth. Imperfect mothering may last a lifetime, but what comes through in Lullaby is understanding. Her mother not only had to handle the baby’s duties but the house and more. She didn’t have an easy time of it, and it is here in these moments that Amaia gets it.

Amaia being left to care for her son without her partner forces her to feel how her mother has felt. Abandoned and taken for granted to do the bulk of the child-rearing in a critical part of their child’s life, she can now relate to Begoña’s once frustrating bemoans. This cyclical nature of life runs through the film, with Azúa keeping her camera just far enough away for her scenes to simmer. The distortion of time within scenes works terrifically well here, Amais is shattered, and everything is going by in a tumultuous blur as she tries to keep her head above water. This breaking up of any rhythm in her life perfectly showcases the work and normal upheaval in one’s life when a newborn comes into your life.

While not all moments that should hit home do so as intended, this is still a blinding success of a film and a memorable debut feature from Azúa. She has conjured a fascinating film that is a better learning experience for expectant mothers than any educational video. It brings a realness to proceedings that a lot of other feature films skim by. Lullaby is a film about connection and a realisation that no matter how we try to be our own people, we are always going to bring something of our parents with us. Once we understand that, we can begin to use it to our advantage and grow.

★★★ 1/2

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