The first impression I had coming into this film was that it would be your typical Spanish supernatural horror film, with its culture surrounding death so heavily. The first few scenes took place in a graveyard, and several conversations later we learn of the death of the main characters’ mother. I never thought that this film would be about something deeper and more complex, and actually be a commentary on the lives of these Spanish women. Never would I have thought to be so immersed in these people’s experiences, and relate to them in a way only real people could.
The issue in particular that this film tackles in such an unconventional way is the theme of sexual abuse and the oppression of women. It is not easy living as a woman in Spain, as the characters went through traumatic experiences at the hands of men—and these men are their husbands and fathers. These women aren’t even safe in their own homes to experience such harassment and abuse from the very people that are supposed to protect them. It is sickening to think of, and so one can’t help but root for the main characters as they go on crazy lengths to cover up their wrongdoing.
But even though this prevalent and heavy issue was seen throughout the movie, it was still very light and enjoyable when it needed to be. It wanted to emphasize the Spanish culture and influence, especially when it came to superstition. It played around with the characters’ belief that Irene, Raimunda’s mother, came back from the dead, especially in her first few interactions with Sole. Even when the two were having a sentimental moment, Irene broke it up by saying, “Don’t say that, Raimunda, or I’ll start crying. And ghosts don’t cry,” to get a laugh out of it.
Lastly, one of the big themes in this movie was the pains of motherhood. Mothers have to work twice as hard, especially in developing or third world countries. The gender roles are still very prevalent there, and the women are expected to do well in their jobs outside and inside the house. This leads them to less time with their families, and an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. Nonetheless, the mothers in this film show us what true love is about. Raimunda wanted to protect her daughter, Paula, and got rid of her husband’s body. Irene went to the countryside and burned down the house that Raimuna’s father and his mistress resided in. One would think of these as insane, but it all came from a mother’s love and their capacity to understand their children’s situations. No one would want to live knowing their daughter was raped or sexually assaulted, and they would do anything to protect their child.