El Agua. 2022. Switzerland/Spain/France. Directed by Elena López Riera. Written by Riera and Philippe Azoury. With Luna Pamies, Bárbara Lennie, Nieve de Medina. In Spanish; English subtitles. 104 min.
The legend of a cursed river hangs over an otherwise sleepy village in southeastern Spain where, according to local lore, the power of new love can awaken flood waters so strong that young women have been lost forever in its wake. It is in this place that we meet the fiery Ana, who lives with her single mother and grandmother and spends sun-drenched summer days with friends, drinking, smoking, and longing to live fast far from home. Around the time Ana strikes up a romance with a neighbor’s son who has returned from abroad, villagers start to warn that a storm is looming. As the winds rise, the teenage girl’s story becomes entwined with the women who came before her.
Elena López Riera’s enchanting, measured first feature combines fable and observations of daily life in her hometown to conjure a tale of fate, female spirit, and the age-old desire to break free. With a cast of nonprofessional actors, El Agua’s seductive take on archetypal myths and flowing naturalism make for one of the most exciting debuts of recent years. A highlight of the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes 2022, El Agua is presented in its New York premiere.