Princesas (March 25/07)
Slow moving but generally interesting, Princesas revolves around two Madrid-based prostitutes (Candela Pena's Caye and Micaela Nevarez's Zulema) and follows their respective efforts to find some happiness in their downtrodden lives.
Written and directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, the film - though undeniably overlong and sporadically repetitive - possesses a vibe of authenticity that essentially carries it through some of its more overtly rough patches. The seedy world inhabited by the various characters - much to Aranoa's credit - never becomes as oppressive as one might've feared, as the filmmaker does an effective job of peppering the proceedings with a number of light-hearted moments (ie a sequence in which Zulema teaches sex education to a room full of enthralled adolescents).
The strength of the two central performances certainly plays a key role in the film's success, with Pena and Nevarez effortlessly (and convincingly) stepping into the shoes of their respective characters. Likewise, the supporting cast is uniformly superb - though it does seem clear that Aronoa has populated the film with several real-life personalities from the streets of Madrid (the blurring out of several license plates only cements this feeling).
And although there's little doubt that the film would've benefited from some judicious editing, Princesas remains an eye-opening and poignant piece of work that occasionally packs a substantial punch.