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Quien Te Cantara touches complex themes including identity and isolation

Lila Cassen is a famous pop star from the ’90s who suffers amnesia after a failed suicide attempt. While recovering, she’s informed by her manager Blanca that she hasn’t produced any songs since her mother’s death ten years back.

Running out of funds to keep her afloat, Lila had signed a comeback tour that she has to prepare for. But with her current condition, the only way left for her to learn her songs and re-gain her old persona is by watching herself online.

While doing that, Lila comes across an interesting video of a fan impersonating her called Violeta, who works as a bartender in a karaoke bar. Violeta is a hardcore fan who specialises in singing Lila’s songs and perfecting her looks. Lila sends Blanca to meet Violeta to ask if she could train her to become her famous persona again, an offer which Violeta accepts gladly. From then on, Lila and Violeta’s stories intertwine and at times it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two.

This is the storyline of the Spanish movie Quien Te Cantara (Who will sing for you?) written and directed by David Vermut in 2018. Although the concept of the movie is simple outwardly with only four main female characters, yet it touches many complex themes such as identity and isolation. Motherhood is another theme that the characters either share metaphorically (the relationship between Blanca and Lila), biologically (the relationship between Violeta and her daughter Marta) or through memories (Lila’s recollection of her mother that she relates to Violeta in a powerful scene at the end).

Vermut’s former career in illustration is evident in almost all scenes. The shots are well composed with many symbols that reflect themes from the movie. Lila’s high heel shoes are placed at the corner of many scenes as a question: will she be able to fill her own shoes and gain her old persona? There is also a brilliant scene of Violeta wearing a t-shirt with Lila’s face on it while still in bed, with Lila’s mouth totally covered by the duvet to indicate her current inability to sing. All actresses deliver a powerful performance, whether it’s Najwa Nimri playing cold and distant Lila who starts becoming more humane as the movie progresses or Violeta — played by Eva Llorach — who’s tormented by her neurotic daughter’s impulsive acts and only find release when impersonating her favourite star. Natalia de Molina who plays Violeta’s daughter Marta perfects the role and succeeds in keeping viewers at the edge of their seats anticipating her next move.

Even the choice of name for the town where the events take place ‘Rota’ — that means broken in Spanish — is not a coincidence as all the female characters are somehow broken. The music composition is eerie at times and in others takes you back to the pop culture of the 90’s — especially with the weird dance moves that the main characters practise in different scenes. The movie is a homage to fandom and a reflection of the stars’ struggle to keep up with the everchanging showbusiness. Quien Te Cantara was inspired by Japanese pop singer Naomi Chiaki who stopped singing after her mother’s death in 1992. It was well-received by critics and viewers alike and had seven nominations for Goya awards, including Best New Actress that went to Eva Llorach. If you’re not familiar with Vermut’s work, then I would suggest you start with his masterpiece Magical Girl (2014) that won him many prizes and international recognition. Quien Te Cantara is a gripping feminine drama both beautiful and devastating. Available on Netflix.

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer

and the author of: The World According to Bahja.

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