When Lucia (Lucia Jimenez) returns to her rural Spanish village home during the rule of the Franco regime in 1944, she reconnects with Manuel (Juan Diego Botto), who is part of the local resistance movement hidden in the mountains known as the ‘Maquis’. Lucia becomes increasingly involved with the Maquis, despite the dangers of being associated with such a movement becoming increasingly apparent.

Director and writer Armendariz and the cast vividly chart how the collective spirit of the Maquis fighters and of the village itself transitions from one of resilience against the residing Fascist guards in early scenes to optimism when the Maquis appear to be achieving early victories. It is to the credit of Armendariz that these emotions are shown without the need to resort to large-scale battle sequences, instead keeping the focus solely on how the conflict affects the village and its inhabitants, including Lucia’s relatives.

However, they also effectively depict how this initial optimism eventually concludes on a note of dissipated defeat as the twin foes of famine and military strength overwhelm them and force the villagers to turn against their loved ones in order to survive. This last aspect is notably illustrated in a quietly harrowing sequence in which the villagers are lined up by the authorities and interrogated about their knowledge of the Maquis.

The performances all round are of a high quality, with Jimenez in particular excelling in portraying Lucia’s initial naivety regarding her awareness of the political changes Spain has undergone during her absence. She and Botto also make the relationship between Lucia and Manuel seem more convincing than the usual romantic subplots seen in similar films such as the romance between Jude Law and Rachel Weisz in Enemy at the Gates.

With the exception of a somewhat overbearing score by Pascal Gaigne that unnecessarily underlines already emotional moments, Broken Silence serves as a moving look at how the Franco regime gradually wore down the resistance against it as seen through the eyes of one young woman. In doing so, the film provides an important insight into a period of Spanish history that foreign viewers rarely hear about.

Part of Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival