Do you ever feel like you want a Romantic Comedy-flavored movie, but lighter on the patriarchy? Maybe even with an extra splash of women supporting each other and caring for themselves? I know I do, and Soltera Codiciada (How to Get Over a Breakup) is here to fulfill that desire.
María Fe (Gisela Ponce de León), who has always dreamed of fairytale romances and being saved by Prince Charming, is getting ready to travel from Lima, Perú to Madrid, Spain to visit Matías (Andrés Salas), her boyfriend of six years, when, over a spotty Skype connection, he unexpectedly dumps her by saying they need a “break” and some “space.” You can pretty much assume he’s schtupping someone else on the side. (And, in case this doesn’t make it totally clear he’s an ass, he also wears his hair in a man bun and has a very hipster beard. He’s far more troll than charming.
It’s ok, María Fe, we all make mistakes. Of course, because this is that kind of movie, María Fe gets incredibly drunk and sends him increasingly desperate messages via WhatsApp, but all in a way that’s still humorous to watch. The next morning she pulls herself together, tries to pretend everything is just fine, and goes to her job as a copywriter at an ad agency where she has a misogynistic, homophobic, and racist boss who wants everything to be more, “Wow!” It’s like pouring misogyny-laced salt onto an open wound.
And look, I should say here that if you’re looking for something with subtlety, this movie is probably going to let you down hard. Even the set design, which I adored, is made up of bright colors and obvious references, like the neon sign above her bed that says huevona—which means different things in different places/contexts, but which the subtitles translate to “slacker”—or the moment she stops in front of a bookstore with a display of Anti-Princesa and Anti-Heroe books—a Spanish-language picture book series whose goal is to challenge the usual masculine and feminine roles and expectations.
So, it’s also made clear that the boss is awful because in less than five minutes he points out that homosexuality isn’t “catching,” offers that an advertisement for a skin cream should have a tagline like, “Smoother skin, Stronger women,” and tells a black female copywriter that she should take charge of a campaign for cooking oil because it has “flavor,” “street-smarts,” and “personality.” I don’t know, though, there’s something satisfying, at least in this case, about the movie’s agenda being so clear. Plus, watching María Fe and her colleagues squirm and grimace when their boss says gross things or gives them an uninvited shoulder rub is cathartic. Wait, no. Did I say that right? I don’t mean I enjoy their discomfort, but if you’ve been in that kind of a situation (which you probably have), it’s nice to have your experience and feelings validated.
Anyway, María Fe starts imagining, hallucinating, really, that her ex-boyfriend is in her apartment and arguing with her about things like a broken kitchen cabinet and whether she should watch Game of Thrones without him. Ponce de Leon is pretty funny in these scenes in how she responds to the sudden appearance of her be-bunned ex-beau. She startles and cringes and yells in ways that made me giggle. She also tells him that he’s a pain in her ovaries, which is a line I’m stealing. María Fe also has two (not imagined) close friends, Santiago (Christopher Von Uckermann), her work colleague, and Natalia (Karina Jordán) her career-driven best friend, who may or may not share an unrequited attraction for each other.
They help María Fe find a roommate (in part so she’ll stop calling them when she’s sad and lonely in the middle of the night). After a delightful cut of all the horrible people who come to look at the apartment (think: Instagram influencers and annoyingly clingy couples), they finally find (or, really, she finds them) Carolina (Jely Reátegui), a free-spirit who says things like, “I’m vegetarian. Sometimes I eat chicken, but I’m vegetarian.” And, “I wake up super early. Except Wednesdays. They’re yellow so I can’t.” It really is somehow more endearing than off-putting. The three women end up getting drunk and going out to a club in the way you expect them to get drunk and go out in a movie like this one, but I didn’t hate it at all. Especially the part when, after hearing a song that makes her nostalgic, María Fe sneaks off to the bathroom so she can message her ex-manbunfriend. Realizing what is happening, and desperate to stop her, Natalia tries to cut to the front of the line for the women’s room. When the women already in line scold her for jumping ahead she yells, “My best friend is in there trying to call her ex!” At which point they all let her pass without question. The movie is all about moments that show understanding for women without judging them for their emotions or decisions. (It was, after all, written by two women.)
The next morning, when María Fe wakes up hungover and regretful, there is a tender scene where Carolina and María Fe open up about their past painful experiences, and Carolina encourages María Fe to find something to distract her. She tries pole dancing, playing chess, and re-reading Don Quixote, but none of these go particularly well. Natalia, like all good best friends, finally tells her to stop moping around, stop trying shit that doesn’t matter, and start doing what she always said she wanted to do, but never did because she was too wrapped up in Mr. Bunhead McBeardface, which is to write. Then Natalia tells her she has to sit down in front of the computer and start “because things won’t write themselves.” (And friends, let me just say here that I felt very exposed in that moment because this is something I have to remind myself of every week. Every week. And also because I spent a lot of time saying I wanted to write, but also definitely not writing anything.) But this is not my therapy session, so let’s go back to María Fe who does start a blog called Soltera Codiciada (which loosely translates to Coveted Single Woman, or maybe Coveted Spinster, if you’re feeling sassy) where she writes about her experiences with dating idiots, working, and life as a woman in general.
She writes her truth. And, it’s a success! Right away! Three hundred people read it! They comment on it! And this is a turning point about which I can’t tell you much more without spoiling things! (I do think this may, just may, be romanticizing the process of starting your own website where you write about things that are important to you, but that is probably beside the point. But also, this is deeply personal to me, so I really want to suss out if having lots of instantly devoted followers is the way it’s supposed to work. But again, this is not my therapy session.)
The movie, which was co-written by the author of the actual blog, Soltera Codiciada, uses gentle humor and the general structure of a Romantic Comedy to talk about women learning to love themselves, to trust themselves, to support each other, and to build the kind of life that makes them happy, rather than the kind that checks off societal expectations. The women in the movie are unapologetically themselves, they do not need to change so much as recognize their own self-worth. It’s not trying to fix everything wrong in the world at once, but it’s something warm and comforting to watch—maybe especially on a day when you feel like the monstrous men of the world always end up winning—that won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.