Admittedly, when it becomes clear Libertad is about an upper-middle class family holidaying on the Costa Brava, rather than the titular Colombian girl working in their summer home, I feared it would be a bourgeois fantasy about servants’ hearts of gold. Thankfully it isn’t. A study of two teens’ fleeting friendship during one summer on the Spanish coast, Libertad is much more interesting – and self-aware – than that.
Spanish filmmaker Clara Roquet focuses mostly on the trials and tribulations of Nora (Maria Morera), a wealthy teen whose mum Teresa (Nora Navas) drags her on another endless summer trip to all the usual haunts. Nora is told to avoid the town, avoid going out at night, avoid Libertad (Nicolle García), the elusive daughter of housekeeper Rosana (Carol Hurtado). All Nora can do is stare at Manuel (Carlos Alcaide), the handsome first mate who works on the family boat.
That all changes when Libertad begins to brush shoulders with Nora. Libertad’s ambition beyond the entrapping house is clear, and her no-holds-barred approach to exploring the unknown intrigues the sheltered Nora. Eventually Nora encourages Libertad to bring her on her adventures, and the pair strike up quite a bond. But rivalry soon kicks in – over boys, the house, life goals and all the other things teens fight about.
Though it’s not like the adults are having too much fun, either. Teresa’s husband is absent and her attentions are elsewhere, while grandma Àngela (Vicky Peña) experiences signs of Alzheimer’s, much to her already stressed out daughter’s horror. What Roquet seems keen to stress is how much the grown-ups and the kids have in common. Their problems are equally superficial, destructive, life changing. There’s no maturity gap in sight. That makes for some compelling fallouts when Nora and her mother, and Libertad and hers, begin to clash.
Under the surface of the pleasant time away Teresa wants for her family, these darker forces persist – and become the main subject of Libertad. An explosive climax and the brilliant chemistry between García and Morera are the most memorable aspects of Roquet’s Cannes debut, but there’s plenty more to enjoy, too. A highlight of the festival’s sidebar.