A deft women-bonding drama that morphs into a rich, nuanced exploration of solitude during its final reels, the downbeat but punchy “One Word From You” boasts a fine trio of central perfs, a script that smartly balances light and darkness and a commitment to emotional truth. Film is overeager to wrap up every last psychological detail, but this sophomore outing by Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde is good enough to add her name to the slim dossier of quality distaff helmers in Spain. B.O. has been decent since the pic’s late August release, and “Word” should be heard at fests and in occasional arthouses offshore.
For reasons shockingly revealed later on, edgy Rosario (Malena Alterio), brutish but good-hearted Morsa (Antonio de la Torre) and quiet, doom-laden Milagros (Esperanza Pedreno) are traveling from Madrid to Milagros’ pueblo with a box.
Pic flashes back to when Milagros, working as a cabbie and permanently stoned, spotted Rosario en route to her cleaning job and picked her up, reigniting their schoolgirl friendship. The pair end up working as nighttime street cleaners.
Rosario lives with her increasingly senile mother (Maria Alfonsa Rosso) and pursues a hesitant affair with Morsa, a garbage-truck driver. Still sparky at this stage, Milagros appears to be alone in the world, and has fastened onto Rosario as a potential buddy.
The dynamics of the two women’s hunter/hunted relationship are well drawn, exploding in a superb screaming match following the pic’s turning point.
The script has many small moments of moral truthfulness, with the performances, on which the film depends almost entirely, bringing them to life. Alterio finds all sorts of nuances in the basically unappealing Rosario, while Pedreno’s liveliness is plausibly hysterical, borne of a desire to avoid despair at all costs. De la Torre is a gruff counterpoint, drawn into a femme world he doesn’t understand but wants to be a part of.
Film shuttles smoothly between three timeframes — the journey to the pueblo, the two women’s developing friendship, and further flashbacks — to Rosario’s childhood. Though evocative, the last are an over-literal explanation of why Rosario is unwilling to commit — something which could have been dealt with in a few lines of dialogue.
The milieu of Madrid’s urban underbelly is convincingly evoked. The gentle score underpins the mood throughout, sometimes to moving effect.