Lion's Den (15)

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The Independent Culture

Pablo Trapero's film is set in a women's prison in Buenos Aires that makes Prisoner: Cell Block H look like the Four Seasons.

Martina Gusman stars as Julia, a young woman who begins her sentence for alleged murder in such a passive stupor that she can barely register her own desperate circumstances: pregnant, partnerless and without a clue as to what really happened in her apartment that night. Trapero chronicles the drip-drip passage of years – the birth of her son, the romance with a fellow prisoner, the reappearance of her estranged mother – and creates a genuine moral drama from the prison authorities' edict that children of inmates must be given up to outside care after four years. (There is an oddly upsetting shot of a baby's tiny feet being fingerprinted). The depiction of violence is less harrowing than it tends to be in male prison movies, though it's absolutely unflinching about the squalor, and the monotony.

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