25 November 2010 | mjneu59
splendid magic realism
There's a sly magic at work in this fascinating Spanish feature: not the high-tech sleight-of-hand conjured up by the FX wizards, but the more natural magic found in the unseen order of chance and circumstance. On a superficial level the film traces 13 years in the life of a peasant girl from rural Spain (Angela Molina), seeking her fortune in the big city as the owner of a fashionable restaurant patronized by the rich and powerful. But just below the surface of the story is a deceptively (super) natural subtext, showing the invisible ties binding Molina, for better or worse, to the other generations of women in her family, in particular to her earthy, cigar-chomping abuela, who extends her unseen influence from beyond the grave through Molina's demure, otherworldly young daughter. The title of the film is borrowed from an old proverb which says "women are half of heaven", and the almost mystical (and for Molina, sometimes inconvenient) rapport between daughter and grandmother is revealed in a sometimes witty, sometimes haunting web of timely but not entirely random accidents, adding up to an unusual film of rare depth and beauty.