Review by Sean Boelman
The summer love narrative is a common one in film, but what makes Jonás Trueba’s take on the genre, The August Virgin, stand out is the way in which it blends these tropes with a slice-of-life structure. Slow-moving but compelling and visually beautiful, this movie is a perfect example of elegant simplicity.
The film follows a young woman who, in search of a fresh start, decides to stay in her hometown of Madrid for the summer when many of the locals leave. There really isn’t much of a firm plot here, the script by Trueba and co-writer/star Itsaso Arana mostly taking the form of a series of interactions and events that happen in the character’s life.
That said, the character arc in the movie is strong. The film is all about embracing oneself and letting go. It’s interesting to watch how the character grows more comfortable in her own skin through these interactions that initially seem random but quickly reveal the greater meaning that they entail.
Yet despite the fact that these individual moments are each packed with meaning, many of them almost start to blend together. Yes, there are a few that are especially memorable, but too significant a significant portion of the movie is built around mundanities for anything but the overall message to stick.
This definitely isn’t a widely accessible film because of how it meanders through its setting. It’s a contemplative movie that takes plenty of time to allow its themes to build upon themselves. Part of what makes this film so intriguing is that each person who watches it will likely connect with a different aspect of the character’s experience, and as a result, gain something unique from the story.
Arana’s performance as the lead is phenomenal. Unfortunately, there aren’t any supporting players with parts that are large enough to be significant, but Arana has a screen presence that is plenty strong enough to carry the movie. She obviously has a connection to the material, and it shows in her understated approach to the role.
Visually, Trueba’s film is exquisite, and this is likely what will make most viewers appreciate it. There isn’t a single shot that isn’t absolutely gorgeous thanks to some superb cinematography by Santiago Racaj. This is definitely one of those movies where looking at it is almost as (if not more) satisfying than the story itself.
Despite a narrative that doesn’t have a whole lot of forward motion, Jonás Trueba’s The August Virgin is still a dynamic film thanks to how pretty it looks. There will be some for whom this is too slow for their tastes, but those who appreciate its merits will love it.
The August Virgin is now streaming online in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.