Madrid-born and bred filmmaker Fernando León Aranoa confirms himself as Spain’s answer to Ken Loach with this affecting but unsentimental, gritty but humorous drama about a pair of prostitutes eking out a living in the Spanish capital. Just as Aranoa’s previous film, the excellent Mondays in the Sun, focussed on the friendship between individuals abandoned by society; so Princesses also revolves around the friendship of two abused women.
Caye (Candela Peña, last seen here in Take My Eyes and Torremolinos 73) is a local who’s kidding herself she’s working in the sex trade temporarily but nevertheless bemoans with her fellow prostitutes the influx of illegal immigrants who are undercutting their trade. Despite her reservations about foreigners, the discovery of neighbouring Dominican prostitute Zulema (Micaela Nevárez) beaten to a pulp by one of her johns precipitates a warm friendship.
Both Peña and Nevárez are utterly convincing in their roles, for which they were justifiably rewarded with Goyas (the Spanish Oscars). Their performances are naturalistic rather than showy, which is in keeping with Aranoa’s low-key approach to the subject. Avoiding descending into didacticism by concentrating on the characters and their relationship, Aranoa manages to champion the plight of these women and criticise society for forcing them into their age-old trade. (Miles Fielder)
Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 14–Mon 17 Dec.