Carla Simón’s outstanding debut feature, chosen as Spain’s 2018 Foreign Language Oscar submission, explores the contradictory ways in which six-year-old Frida processes the deaths of her parents.
Summer 1993 begins on the back of six-year-old Frida’s (Laia Artigas) head. Around her and out of focus, a group of children run around with sparklers; she remains still. “Why aren’t you crying?” one of them asks. Frida won’t answer, and director Carla Simón doesn’t cut to her expression. Seeing Frida’s face is unnecessary: when we eventually cut to it, her blankness gives no more of a clue to how she’s feeling than the back of her head did. Just as she is unable to make sense of her own emotions, we are left in the dark, too.
Carla Simón’s debut feature, recently chosen as Spain’s submission for the 2018 Foreign Language Oscar, perceptively captures how children experience grief. Coping with the deaths of both of her parents requires a level of emotional maturity from Frida that a six-year-old is not ready for. On an intellectual level, she doesn’t understand what has happened to them ― she still expects her mother to pick up the phone when called ― but their absence is a heavy, oppressive force in her life that she struggles to process.