This film based on the life of pioneering Mexican author and poet Rosario Castellanos (Karina Gidi) specifically focuses on her troubled relationship with philosopher Ricardo Guerra Tejada (Daniel Gimenez Cacho).
In particular, Beristain and scriptwriters Javier Penalosa and Maria Renee Prudencio do not shy away from depicting the conflicts between Rosario and Ricardo concerning her burgeoning career and his fears that it will overshadow him both professionally and personally.
Specifically, the initial portrayal of Ricardo’s resentment of Rosario’s ambitions is skilfully handled, with an early scene showing Ricardo’s growing frustration with Rosario working on her typewriter and a later sequence where he angrily fends off a reporter’s questions about her effectively conveying his increasing anger at seemingly being sidelined in the relationship.
Flashbacks to Rosario and Ricardo’s early years as a couple also effectively foreshadow Ricardo’s controlling nature, as he is shown to prevent the young Rosario from asking him a question at a meeting that he is holding. In addition, both Gidi and Cacho’s performances effectively convey Rosario and Ricardo’s individual struggles with each other.
Gidi in particular skilfully portrays Rosario’s gradual emotional loss of control as Ricardo challenges her ability to be a mother to their child, with a latter sequence where she disrupts a seminar Ricardo is holding allowing Gidi to depict her anger and grief without creating the impression that Rosario is devolving into a hysterical stereotype.
However, whilst the film’s first half provides enough clarification about Rosario and Ricardo’s relationship, the second half following the birth of their son feels somewhat rushed in comparison. In particular, Rosario’s confrontation with Ricardo during his seminar transitions almost immediately to her final moments as ambassador to Israel without any indication about whether their relationship deteriorated further or whether Rosario’s relationship with her son was affected as a result.
Despite this, The Eternal Feminine works as a powerful account of one woman’s struggle against the patriarchal society of 1950s Mexico in the form of her relationship with her husband. However, a longer running time giving more details regarding the later years of Rosario and Ricardo’s relationship would have provided a greater insight into the difficulties she faced.
Part of Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival