In The Company of Women Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

Irene Brown | Radio Summerhall Arts

In The Company of Women Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

Catalan director Silvia Munt has set her latest film, Las Buenas Compañías (In the Company of Women), in Errenteria in the Basque country in 1976, a time just after Franco’s rule when abortion is illegal in Spain. 

Bea, played by Alicia Falcó who beautifully captures the quietly angry rebel, is an androgynous 16 year old working class girl whose separated  father is in jail and whose mother, sometimes helped by Bea, is employed as housekeeper by a wealthy local woman. She is involved with a group of young, single radical feminists who like to smoke joints while stargazing on the beach when they’re not writing militant placards and throwing paint on a local rapist. 

A relative arrives in a distressed state at the house of Bea’s mother, Feli, a role superbly and subtly embraced by Itziar Ituño, after a self-induced abortion that did not go well so Bea steps in at the rich woman’s place. Here she comes across the employer’s granddaughter Miren (Elena Tarrats) playing the piano in her underskirt and something sparks between the two young women. Turns out Miren is pregnant.  If she carries full term, she will be unable to keep the baby as it would be taken away without her seeing it, a common practice back then for single women. With the help of the feminist group and Feli, the pair embark on the risky trip of crossing the border to Biarritz where the abortion law had changed the year before.

While there are parallels with the French film Annie Colère (Angry Annie), that deals with a young married woman who gradually becomes involved in a feminist movement to help women with unwanted pregnancies when it was also still illegal in France, the focus is different. Munt’s film shows the issue through the eyes of a passionate young woman with little life experience of her own,  except when an older man exposes himself to her on a bus, who learns rapidly through those  of other women in her life.

Munt shows that Bea is closer to and more like her remote dad in character despite her mother’s constancy and practicality. Their reconciliation, after Feli only becoming aware of the girls’ lesbian relationship in her driving mirror on the way to Biarritz, is quiet and touching.  Yet the closing scene shows Bea flicking her dad’s knife on and off unmenacingly in the back seat as Feli drives them home.

Munt has made a strongly feminist film exposing several facets of the singularly female experience of unwanted pregnancy whether the woman is married or single. It is a sensitive and sympathetic look at the reality of women’s lives with sorority at its heart.

September 30th (5.45pm (Glasgow Film Theatre)

October 3rd (7.45pm (Macrobert Arts Centre Stirling)

October 6th (6.15pm (French Institute Edinburgh)

October 14th (2.00pm (Eden Court Inverness)

Spanish and Basque with English (cc) subtitles

Running time 93 mins