FILM_REVIEWS_My brother Juan

My brother Juan is a short film from 2019. It is a very short film: ten minutes including the credits. The Granada sisters Cristina and Maria José Martín wrote the screenplay and directed it. It is their first fiction film. Until this short film, their career had focused on music documentaries. It is no coincidence that the main character is played by the actress and singer Leonor Watling and that Dani Martín and Coque Malla collaborate in this short film that is able to portray so many things in such a short time.

The synopsis presents the story as this: “Ana is a 6-year-old girl who is doing child therapy with a psychologist. Through games and drawings, she tells the psychologist things about her family, and especially her brother Juan, how he is, how she sees him, what they play, and what they have experienced together. But we will soon realise that things are not what they seem”.

The suspense that keeps My Brother Juan tense is revealed at the end. Once it is exposed, the credits appear leaving the viewer alone and facing an ending that tells us “what you were seeing was not what it seemed: it was not a therapy session, it was something else”.

It is not known how long the girl has been meeting with the psychologist. It may not have been the first time. It is possible that there had been more encounters and that the girl had been in therapy with the psychologist. In any case, the short  film places us in a time interval where the psychologist is preparing the girl to tell her what happened to her brother. She pulls a confession out of her - the unspeakable or the unbearable to  hear - which for the girl does not come across as such because she is not responding from a place of morality. A delicate matter that this short film deals with as there is still no conscience of guilt despite the fact that the weight of the law requires a person  to be responsible.

The purpose of the short film, as described by the Martin sisters, is to explore the differences between the child and the adult by pushing them to the limit. To explain this idea, the Martín sisters use a psychologist who accesses the girl's particular universe through play, not without consequences, as can be seen at the end of the film.

What is the purpose of play in a therapeutic session? Play in therapy is not intended to elicit confessions. For the child, the game —be it in a session or out— is that space where it is possible to modify the past in the realm of the game so that the new and unexpected arise. Play serves to relive situations, to imagine the presence of something that is absent, to play with a lost object that turns and returns capriciously. With this movement, individual myths are articulated that become true and that allow the child to appropriate the symbolic with their dreams, fantasies and individual jokes.

What would be the purpose of the game in My Brother Juan? Play in this short film seeks a truth in the form of a statement. The girl commits a prohibited act and as such, before the law, she is guilty. The psychologist takes the role of a Mental Health worker, one of the arms of the law. The other arm is represented by the policemen. The juvenile judge will be the one who must know how to apply the law to a six-year-old girl from whom a statement has been obtained.  How to create a space for her future? How to do so in a way that the girl is not crushed by “the other” and is able to find a place where she can think about this traumatic event?

Helena Valldeperes