A light-hearted, whimsical film that takes on meaningful issues, Rosa’s Wedding (La boda de Rosa) is anchored by Candela Peña’s vibrant performance as Rosa. Almost 45, Rosa lives a full, over-full life, working as a seamstress for a film production company in Valencia, helping out her brother Armando with his kids, caring for her recently widowed father, and myriad other tasks that people seem to keep sending her way. Cheerful and capable, warm, and wise, Rosa is the reliable one, the one you can depend on, the loving daughter, sister, aunt, mother and friend. She’s the one everyone turns to when they need help. Director Icíar Bollaín, who co-wrote the screenplay with Alicia Luna, takes Rosa’s predicament to the extreme, to delightful comic effect, and Rosa’s solution is just as extreme – extremely funny, and yet also very moving.
A talented seamstress, Rosa is adept at solving all the problems that come up in sourcing, adjusting, and creating costumes in the hectic environment of the film industry. Working overtime whenever necessary – and it’s often, she’s so tired that she literally falls asleep on the job. When she finally goes home, the workday isn’t really over, because everyone seems to need her help. Her brother Armando (Sergi López) is coping badly with a failing marriage, and relies on Rosa to fix dinner for his children and tuck them in for the night. Her mother died two years ago and her father Antonio (Ramon Baréa) seems to be adrift, leaning on Rosa for companionship and care. Their third sibling, Violeta (Nathalie Poza) is preoccupied with her own career, and busy focusing on herself. Rosa’s grownup daughter Lidia has embarked on an independent life in Manchester with her partner and their twin infant sons, yet in their video conversations it seems that there are unresolved issues between mother and daughter. Rosa has a boyfriend Rafa (Xavo Giménez), but he is not so much a source of affection and support as one more person in her life who needs and expects her help. She is ceaselessly busy, but within this full, busy, life, there is very little sense of Rosa’s own needs, desires, and dreams.
Just as Rosa’s burdens are on the verge of becoming unbearable, or perhaps even a bit beyond, she has an epiphany. Realizing that she deserves the respect, attention, and devotion that she has lavished on everyone else, Rosa takes radical action. Making a complete break with her current life in Valencia, leaving her job and apartment, she drives to the coastal town of Benicàssim where she was born, and where her mother’s former workshop still stands empty. To symbolize her decision Rosa decides to hold a wedding ceremony and marry herself, taking vows to love, respect, and be faithful to herself. She wants her family to be present at the ceremony, but worried that they will not understand her actions, she tells them that she is getting married, but does not tell them that she herself is her intended.
It’s a whimsical premise, and the action that follows is amusing and wacky. Rosa’s family become enthusiastically involved in her upcoming wedding, yet once more, ignore Rosa’s wishes, following their own idea of how the wedding should be celebrated. As the wedding preparations progress, one comes to know the characters better and become acquainted with their quirks and issues. There’s a sunny warmth to the film that makes this a wonderfully feel-good movie. Rosa’s family and their relationships feel very real and grounded. There is love and affection in the family, and it comes through, despite misunderstandings, mistakes, and conflicting interests.
Although it takes a very light approach, Rosa’s Wedding touches on significant issues. The issues Rosa deals with – respecting her own needs as well as those of others, setting boundaries, and learning to say “no”, are familiar and relatable, especially to women, who, even today, still tend to find themselves in the role of “givers” within the family and in their relationships. The film also casts a critical eye on the role of marriage in our culture, and the status conferred on women especially, as a consequence of being married or unmarried. In part because she is not married, Rosa is considered available to help out. Marriage is also a landmark in the lifecycle, perhaps one that would benefit from a reassessment, as it has retained much of the symbolic weight from past eras when a young woman was married – often in a transactional arrangement – when she arrived at the appropriate age, leaving her father’s home for the home of her husband. It’s a time when parents often gift their adult child with the means to purchase a home or start a business, to give them a good starting point as they embark on married life. It’s a time of celebration, when the bride is the center of attention. Rosa, who did not marry, did not receive the same kind of assistance that her parents gave Armando and Violeta. Rosa’s family and friends love and appreciate her, but that is not enough. She has not been the center of attention, ever. Yet if she wants to be seen and heard, she needs to learn to stand firm and speak up.
Rosa’s Wedding (La Boda de Rosa)
France/Spain/2020/97 min/Spanish, English, French with Hebrew and English subtitles
Director: Icíar Bollaín; Screenplay: Icíar Bollaín and Alicia Luna; Cinematography: Sergi Gallardo and Beatriz Sastre; Editing: Nacho Ruiz Capillas; Cast: Candela Peña, Sergi López, Nathalie Poza, Ramon Baréa, Xavo Giménez