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‘La Maternal’ Review: Babies Raise Babies in a Superb, Unsentimental Teen Motherhood Drama

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Guy Lodge Film Critic It takes a village to raise a child, goes the old saying, and at least in the figurative sense, Spanish director Pilar Palomero’s tremendous sophomore feature “La Maternal” shows that to be true.

Before that can happen, however, pregnant 14-year-old Carla needs to get out of the village and into the city — specifically, to a Barcelona shelter for teenage mothers where the troubled adolescent finds the community and empathy her life has been missing all along.

Female solidarity drives Palomero’s follow-up to the celebrated, similarly sisterhood-themed “Schoolgirls,” but without any glib girl-power sloganeering: A tough, unsweetened work of social realism built around an astonishing screen debut by Carla Quílez, “La Maternal” sentimentalizes not one detail of juvenile motherhood, truly earning its flashes of hope and grace.

Though it racked up festival mileage at the Berlinale and beyond, “Schoolgirls” never made quite the impression internationally that it did in Spain — where it topped last year’s Goya winners over bigger-name competition.

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