3 Best Movies to Watch by Bruna Cusí

Staff & contributors

Summer 1993 charts a formative summer in the life of young Frida (Laia Artigas), a brooding six-year-old who, having just been orphaned by AIDS, is sent from her home in Barcelona to live in the countryside with her uncle (David Verdaguer), his wife (Bruna Cusí), and their little girl (Paula Robles). Catalan director Carla Simón drew on her own childhood experiences for the film, making Summer 1993 feel intimately told. It’s shot from the perspective of its young protagonist and is guided by the unpredictable rhythms of memory: we experience Frida’s new life the way she might remember it when she’s older, via snapshots of moments that stand out to a child, like the day she spent amongst the chickens in a neighbor’s farm or the moment another kid asks her why she isn’t more visibly upset about her mother’s recent death.

That emotional enigmaticness is what makes Artigas’s naturalistic performance so absorbing: she never plays Frida in a predictable dramatic register, so much so that it’s easy to forget we’re not watching a documentary. The unexpected little ways her grief manifests itself — along with Simón’s assured, impressionistic directing — make this a profoundly heart-rending watch throughout, and especially so in its gut-punch of a final scene.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer, Fermí Reixach, Isabel Rocatti, Laia Artigas, Quimet Pla

Director: Carla Simón

He may be out of office, but films about Donald Trump's racist and xenophobic immigration policies will continue to feel urgent for the ripple effect they've left on so many immigrants—and these films aren't just coming from within the United States either. A Spanish production, Upon Entry boils down a presidential term's worth of discrimination to just a few hours in the lives of a couple being interrogated at the airport. Directors Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastián Vásquez shoot in a style that almost feels like they're telling the story in real-time, with very few bursts of emotion and lots of quiet agonizing in the claustrophobia of windowless rooms. Every interaction is fraught with tension, as the couple, Diego and Elena, keep weighing if they should stand up for themselves or submit to the authorities' bullying.

The film eventually makes a bid for more drama by putting the couple's relationship and mutual trust into question, but this choice brings the movie dangerously close to validating the psychological manipulation used by the immigration officers. It momentarily loses sight of the bigger picture: that all this relationship drama is beside the point. Still, as a portrait of how discriminatory laws not only lock people out but tear them apart from each other, it's a potent, painful watch.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alberto Ammann, Ben Temple, Bruna Cusí, David Comrie, Laura Gómez

Director: Alejandro Rojas, Juan Sebastián Vásquez

If you’re new to the story, I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me feels difficult to understand. The film adaptation portrays the novel through abruptly cut sequences, meticulously framed naturalistic frames, and monologue and dialogue that mean more than what’s being said, on top of Juan Pablo’s gradual descent into a criminal network. It’s as disorienting as being in Barcelona feels for Mexican couple Juan Pablo and Val. However, this film feels like a new approach in adapting novels – the multiple perspectives and epistolary portions adeptly portrayed through typed up screens and alternating perspectives (and direction) between the couple. It doesn’t feel like something that you’ve likely seen before.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Alexis Ayala, Ángel Zermen, Anna Castillo, Ariana Van X, Bel Gris, Bruna Cusí, Carmen Beato, Clara Roquet, Dario Yazbek Bernal, Jelen García, Juan Carlos Remolina, Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño, Juan Minujín, Natalia Portnoy, Natalia Solián

Director: Luis Fernando Frías de la Parra

Rating: R