London Film Festival 2016: Rara dir. Pepa San Martín

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Child actors can be either one of two things: exasperating, or unbelievably good. The ones in Pepa San Martín’s Rara thankfully, happen to tend towards the latter, and make Rara an extremely likable film.Rara is oddly reminiscent of American film The Kids Are All Right, but only insofar as that they both feature a lesbian couple bringing up two kids at the forefront. Rara takes the perspective of adolescent Sara (Julia Lübbert), opening the film with a steady tracking shot following her around in school. Sara is surprisingly mature for her youth, often more aware than she lets on about her surroundings, such as telling younger sister Catalina (Emilia Ossandon) not to draw too much attention to their two mothers, or convincing her cat hating mother to keep a cat by pitting her against her ex-husband.

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Sara for the most part leads a stable, happy life with her sister and two mothers. She and her sister spend their weekends at their father’s, while they spend the rest of the week at their mothers’. But now in her teens, Sara has a renewed perspective of the world, filled with a little more angst and a little more rashness, and a battle for custody ensues.

Yet, despite the custody battle, that is never made the main plot of the film, often shunted to the background, acting as a source of tension and stress for the characters to discuss. The process is never actually seen, merely hinted at over heated phone arguments, and the thrust of the film is on Sara’s life and how she interacts with her two sets of parents, her friends at school, and of course, her sister. Rara isn’t so much a ‘lesbian’ film, so much as a tale about family and growing up.

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Apart from all the underlying tension, there is a good dose of heartwarming moments and humour as well. For all their flaws, the family always finds a way to make things work, be it due to an ugly cake that gets baked or taking care of a cat. The best moments come about when the families are just being families, from playing ‘Heads Up Charades’ on their phones, to an iconic dance sequence where the main family ends up having fun while cleaning up the house, collapsing in an exhausted heap by the end of it all with satisfied smiles on their faces. Even though main couple Lia (Agustina Muñoz) and the girls’ mother Paula (Mariana Loyola) aren’t the public displays of affection type, and for most of the film, give each other pecks on the cheek or hug, the onscreen chemistry is powerful enough to see the family’s love for each other in all their forms.

Despite showcasing an unconventional family, Rara is undoubtedly one of the realest family films I’ve seen in a long while. With evocative and genuine performances from the young child actors and countless heartwarming moments, this tale of growing up and parenthood will leave you in deep thought and makes a strong case for recognizing that modern families are just as capable of bringing up children as regular ones do.

Rara plays at the London Film Festival at various venues. Tickets available here.

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