‘Nosotras/Ellas’: True/False Review

Courtesy of Cine el Calefon
Poetically crafted, hermetically sealed.

An Argentine director’s female relatives are the focus of her first film.

A loving study of women’s bodies and family ties, Nosotras/Ellas (Us Women/Them Women) is a cinematic essay filled with painterly images. The matriarchy that first-time director Julia Pesce explores consists of her own kin — mother, sister, aunts, great-aunts and cousins. And as the film’s title suggests, she’s both part of the group and outside it, an observer on the other side of the lens.

The beautifully shot doc, which screened recently at True/False in Missouri, delivers striking moments, yet with its languid pace and lack of social context, it too often feels airless. Marking Pesce as a talent to watch, this debut outing is strictly fest fare, although its hourlong running time makes it a ready fit for arts-oriented small-screen schedules.

Focusing on nine women, mainly over one summer in an old country house, Pesce structures the piece with a grave-to-cradle framework, beginning with a New Year’s toast around an elderly aunt’s sickbed and ending with labor pains and childbirth, captured in handsome, gore-free imagery.

Along the way, ablution figures prominently; the women, without the slightest sense of modesty, bathe themselves and each other, at home and in a nearby river. Serving as cinematographer, Pesce builds moods and textures from nature, domestic vignettes and an almost abstract sense of the women themselves. The overlapping relationships of the physically similar females aren’t always clear, and at various points they seem to blend into one another, no doubt as intended.

A bit of narrative enters the picture with one young cousin’s pregnancy. The sometimes angry Skype conversations about this turn of events are thoughtful glimpses into attitudes about motherhood and domesticity, lending a welcome edge to the film’s dreamy aesthetic.

Production company: Cine el Calefon
Director-screenwriter: Julia Pesce
Producers: Lucia Torres, Ezequiel Salinas
Executive producers: Juan Carlos Maristany
Camera: Julia Pesce
Editor: Lucia Torres
Sound designer: Federico Disandro

Not rated, 64 minutes

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