Rocío (Natalia de Molina in her award-winning performance) is a young single mother who has been without work for three and a half years in the Andalucian town of Jerez de la Frontera. She is on the edge of a precipice, living day-to-day off the small allowance of odd jobs and the generosity of her neighbours. As she fights to keep her apartment (with several months of rental debt accrued) she struggles to provide for her eight-year-old son Adrián. When Rocío’s gas canister runs out or when her water is turned off, she is faced with an impossible decision: if she replaces them, there is no money to feed her son.
There is an understated naturalism to the performances in this perfect storm of misfortune, reflected by documentary-style photography. In the central role, the striking de Molina’s haunting performance is painfully expressive and combined with Castillo’s absorbing script, gives a somber, unsentimental but completely compelling X-ray of a southern Europe in crisis.