Monday 20 November 2017

Movies: Lion's Den

(Club, IFI)

Paul Whitington

You'd think a female prison would be the last place you'd find a pregnant woman, but the dilemmas presented by this apparently all too common situation are unflinchingly explored in this grim Argentine drama.

Martina Gusman plays Julia, a young woman who enters a nightmarish world when she wakes to find a bloodbath in her apartment. In circumstances that are never made clear, her boyfriend and his gay lover have both been stabbed, one of them to death, and Julia finds herself accused of murder.

Though she protests her innocence, she doesn't seem entirely sure of what happened herself, and she's incarcerated in a grim women's prison. She initially shuns the rough women around her and when it transpires that she's pregnant, she beats her stomach in an apparent attempt to induce a miscarriage. But a kindly, charismatic inmate called Marta (Laura Garcia) takes her under her wing, and shows her the maternal ropes when she gives birth to a boy called Tomas.

The rules are that women can keep their children with them in prison till they're four, after which they must give them up to relatives or a foster home. But Julia becomes fiercely attached to her boy, and as the deadline draws near she begins to contemplate desperate measures.

One's emotions are stirred time and again by the sight of toddlers playing amid the prison bars. And while the film's plot leaves too many questions unanswered, the performances of Gusman and Garcia are compelling.

Irish Independent

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