Film London Film Festival Marie O'Sullivan's Film Reviews

The Rye Horn – London Film Festival 2023

The Rye Horn

A compelling tale of female solidarity set in rural Spain and Portugal in the 1970s, The Rye Horn made history for director Jaione Camborda, who this year became the first Spanish woman to win the top film prize at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.

Certain things bind us in adversity. In Jaione Camborda’s second feature The Rye Horn, the tie that binds is being a woman.

Rural Galicia in the Franco era does not provide an easy life, but the community helps each other wherever it can. María (Janet Novás) acts as the local midwife as well as having her own small-holding. A lengthy opening scene of childbirth makes a statement as to how physically challenging the act of bringing new life into the world is for a woman, and María seems to know exactly what her friend needs at the right moment. 

A little later on she reluctantly agrees to perform an abortion, the consequences of which force her to flee her community and seek a new life across the border in Portugal. Having initially been the person who provided assistance, María now receives it – and at each point, the person helping her is another woman.  Often wordlessly, the women understand what help is required, and freely offer whatever little they can. 

There is little dialogue, as it is deeds not words which are the key. Despite this, Janet Novás, who appears to be a first-time actor, is remarkable as she seeks to eke out a new life across the border with nothing but the clothes she is wearing.

Exquisitely shot by Portuguese cinematographer Rui Poças, with naturalistic light and rural landscapes guiding his choices, The Rye Horn is a beautiful film of female solidarity. Can’t wait to see what more Jaione Camborda has to offer.

The Rye Horn played at the London Film Festival 2023.

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