We all know a familiar stranger, the person who you often see on the bus or at the supermarket but with whom you do not interact. Maybe you wave or say hi in the street due to a shared postcode but they are still little more than a person you greet but do not know. Josefina asks the question: what happens when such a relationship becomes decidedly something else, something friendly or even intimate?
The film follows Juan, a middle-aged man who works as a prison guard, and his encounters with Berta, whose son is in the prison. Juan then strikes up an unlikely relationship with this woman based on their shared trips to the prison via bus, nevertheless he doesn’t tell her he works there, merely alludes to the fact (or fiction) that he has a daughter in the other ward.
The plot itself deliberately avoids any conventional revelations or moments of melodrama, instead the film becomes a study of characters at a transitory point in their life. Characters whose relationships exist in the grey areas, much like the prison which is both a part of Madrid but also very much on the outskirts. Juan and Berta move between being strangers, lovers and even clients. This is only further heightened by the way conversations are often framed through barriers within the scene, whether that be the glass screens of the prison visiting room or the protruding metal bars of the bus stop. There is a strange profundity in the way they manoeuvre these spaces and a quiet poignancy that is only emphasised by the sparse but evocative score.
Moreover, there is much attention given to the small details of modern life: the TV remote that has stopped working, the robotic vacuum that keeps malfunctioning and the constant surveillance we are under but have begun to ignore. This feeds into the film’s observations about class as both of the main characters inhabit rather basic city apartments that are very alike to one another. Showing another side to Spanish Drama outside of the colour-filled melodrama of Almodóvar, Javier Marcos has announced himself as an exciting new filmmaker with his feature-film debut Josefina.