A Late In Life Coming-Of-Age Film With A Dynamite Lead Performance [Sundance]

There’s a clear contrast between this new journey for Cruz and her friends. Also strict Catholics, they’re shown to be judgemental and condescending, as Cruz observes them insulting someone for having the nerve to try and advertise sex therapy in the sacred church. The church is shot to emphasize its immense scale, and the power it holds over Cruz and the other constituents. Other spaces feel warm and comfortable, but the church is overwhelming, cleverly signifying that the church may not be the safe space for Cruz she’s always believed it to be. “MAMACRUZ” certainly examines the idea of Catholic guilt and the pressure religion has on Cruz, but it never overwhelms the story — this is a film about Cruz first and foremost, and it’s all the better for it.

Cruz makes her way to the aforementioned sex therapy, and after shedding some nerves, she immediately finds a community of like-minded women of all ages. The film’s normally dull color palette fades way to an almost kaleidoscopic burst of color when Cruz joins the group. It’s a visually striking moment: Cruz has found her people, and it’s a beautiful thing.

“MAMACRUZ” never feels contrived. It’s a very naturally flowing movie that’s more observant than dramatically driven. But I was never bored watching, and the director immerses you in Cruz’s world slowly and steadily, and it’s a world I didn’t want to leave.

In a late confrontation with Cruz’s husband, he tells her “You’re too old for this crap.” Cruz responds, “We might be old, but I still feel things. Even if you see me as a flowerpot.” It’s a powerful sentiment — Cruz has evolved over the course of the film in tremendous fashion, and she’s no longer interested in a life without passion. Mánver is astonishing as Cruz. The film gives the accomplished actress plenty of opportunities to shine. It’s such a committed and warm performance, and a willingness to really dive deep into the psyche of her character means you won’t be able to get her out of your head.

This is a gorgeous, life-affirming exploration of life that delivers a strong and valuable message that life is for living. “MAMACRUZ” also functions as a delightful rebuke of recent hagsploitation cinema, which turns old women into something grotesque, something to be feared. It’s incredibly refreshing to see the very opposite — women of a certain age unabashedly celebrated, right up until the breathtaking final shot.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

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