Iciar Bollain's Goya award-winning Spanish film tackles domestic abuse by humanising a story that could have been largely issues-driven. It is predictable, mind, even if necessarily so.
When Pilar (Laia Marull) leaves her surly, cervesa-slugging spouse Antonio (Luis Tosar), she shacks up with her sister, who learns of Pilar's repeated hospitalisations and begs her to get shot of him. Instead, Antonio undergoes aggression therapy and woos Pilar back. But why on earth would she go back? Can he really have changed?
Directing sparely, Bollain lets the film rest on his cast, who explore their territory convincingly. While Marull turns from doormat to self-motivator, the implacably chin-heavy Tosar turns from brick-shithouse brutish to pathetic, Bollain implying that he could change - - if he tries. Sure, Bollain backs himself into a corner with the persuasive-but-pat closing scenes. But by fleshing out its characters and leaving question marks, this is solid enough.