When Chilean lawyer Paula (Mariana Loyola) divorces her husband Victor (Daniel Munoz), her new partner Lia (Agustina Muñoz) moves in to share her home in this small conservative town. One day Paula is summed for a meeting with the school Principal after her 8 year old daughter Catalina (Emilia Ossandon) had made a drawing of their family showing her two ‘mummies’ and her 13 year old sister Sara (Julia Lübbert). This ‘official’ reprimand to voice disapproval of her sexuality is just the beginning of public dissent that will start to try and eventually break the family up.
Even Paula’s own mother makes no effort to hide her objection to her daughter’s new relationship and implores her to be ‘discreet’, but it is Paula’s ex husband who despite his cordiality to her, is the one who seems the most anxious about how his family is perceived in the community.
The story is told through the eyes of the very impressionable Sara, who has just had the braces removed from her teeth, which gives her the much needed self-confidence to start thinking about dating boys. Egged on by her best friend Pancha (Micaela Cristi) she sets her sights on one of classmates Julian (Nicolás Vigneaux) and plans to invite him and the rest of her class to her birthday party.
Even though life at home is very happy, Sara like every 13 year old girl doesn’t always see eye to eye with her mother over everything, and when one day she vents her annoyance to her father, he sees this as an excuse to think about getting both girls to go live him. The after Sara has a particular bad fight with Paula and ends up on her father’s doorstep in the middle of the night, he sees that as a justification to start legal proceedings to win custody, even though both Sara and her younger sister both protest and insist that they do not want to live wth him and his new wife. In most communities it is an accepted fact that the Courts will always side with the mother in most custody battles, but in such conservative areas where homophobia is rampant, the outcome is much harder to predict.
The movie directed and co-written by Pepa San Martin is actually based on the true story in 2004 when a Chilean Judge lost custody of her own children purely on the basis of her sexuality. Rara (which means ‘sad’) stops before the Trial begins, but it seems quite inevitable that things are going to end badly for Paula and her children.
The movie’s cast give very convincing performances but it is the two young actresses playing Sara and Catalina who really make this piece work so well. Lubbert shows a remarkable maturity in her performance who as the confused and troubled teen is in the de facto mother to her sibling as their parents are so wrapped up in themselves. The fact that both young girls are like pawns in a fight which is all about adults perceptions and beliefs, rather than what would really be best for them, makes this compelling drama that much sadder.
Rara is a beautifully produced very moving story that will resound even deeper than usual especially in the U.S. and other parts of the world where LGBT rights are under threat again of going back and not forward.