'Princesas'

Caye (Candela Peña), a prostitute in Madrid, has begun losing business to the young immigrants who undersell her. Zulema (Micaela Nevárez) is one of those immigrants, from the Dominican Republic, hustling to earn money for her mother and son back home. The women begin as antagonists, but when violence brings them together, they discover the sustenance that friendship—something neither of them seems to have experienced—can bring. This deft film from Spanish writer-director Fernando León de Aranoa errs only when it gives its protagonists speeches that are too self-consciously philosophical to feel real. (It also fails to offer justification for why Caye, apparently middle-class, is a prostitute.) Otherwise, Princesas is a well-crafted and moving look at two lonely lives, with a smartly minimal script that brings the women's grief into sharp relief. De Aranoa never condescends to his subjects, and Caye's mixture of aggression and tenderness is appealingly authentic. Could this be the first film to use a cell phone ringtone to devastating emotional effect?

 
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