Manchester Film Festival ’18: ‘Can’t Say Goodbye’ is a bleak family drama anchored by stunning performances

The tale of warring sisters is well-trodden cinematic ground by this point. These sisters are often opposite in nature – one is sensible, the other rebellious, one has a family, the other does not, one is emotional, the other logical. ‘Can’t Say Goodbye’ follows this pattern at first glance but adds a nuance that many similar dramas disregard; the relationship between the sisters in question remains loosely supportive despite their oppositional personalities. The intensity of these characters and the commitment of each actor transforms what could have been a bland melodrama into a touching commentary on the life of a fractured family.

Nathalie Poza in No sé decir adiós (2017). © Lolita Films

Carla – strong, unruly, sniffs mysterious white substances in bathrooms – is living alone in Barcelona when she gets a call from her sister Blanca. Their father has been taken ill, and Carla must return to her childhood home in order to play the doting daughter. The relationship between Carla and Blanca is nuanced from the moment they reunite: they throw barbs at each other one moment, then compliment each other the next. (“You look great, bitch.”) Blanca informs Carla of her wishes to become an actress, and Carla half-heartedly confirms her approval. Their words are never emotional, but the link is there: they’re family, and they don’t need to be affectionate to show their bond. The pair form a strikingly real representation of two very different people who have grown together despite a clashing of personalities. When you’ve known somebody for that long, after all, they become part of the furniture.

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