Like the films of French master Philippe Garrel, conceptual artist and filmmaker Amalia Ulman’s feature debut is both of its time and yet somehow not. References to social media, influencer culture, and other modernities ground it in the present era, while the spartan black-and-white aesthetic, dispassionate sensibility, and even its fashion and hairstyles evoke a not-too-distant past, one before the actual setting (sometime after the 2008 recession). Ulman—who was raised in Gijón, Spain, where the film is set—wrote, produced, directed, and stars in this stylishly aimless sojourn, about a mother (played by Ulman’s real-life mother) and daughter (Ulman) who are experiencing financial instability following the recession, having been considerably affluent beforehand. The two contend with their newfound poverty in different ways; Ulman’s Leo, who seems to do something with fashion, sells her sewing machine and, in one of the film’s most absurd scenes, even explores the possibility of sex work, while her mother is a full-on grifter, charging meals and clothing to the tabs of imaginary suitors. What goes unexplained is intriguing but doesn’t overwhelm this rather bare endeavor, instead complementing its nonchalant poignancy. Described by Ulman as an “eviction comedy” and based on both her life and the true story of a similar mother-daughter duo, the film is neither cynical nor sentimental, evincing a distinct, often humorous voice. Also noteworthy are the film’s fashions—one admires the avant-garde wares while considering the implications of the characters’ preoccupation with their outward appearance and material possessions. In English and Spanish with subtitles. 79 min.

Gene Siskel Film Center