This Friday, Netflix debuts the first miniseries by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo that places women front and center
Five women in their 30s, facing into the camera, begin to shave their heads. It’s the start of a pact, a trip and a miniseries – The Girls at the Back (Las de la última fila) – about the adventures of a group of friends who decide to spend a week together in Cádiz before one of them begins her first cycle of chemotherapy. Viewers won’t know who she is until they’ve devoured all six episodes of this Netflix miniseries. Available from this Friday, it was written and directed by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo (Cousinhood, Diecisiete, AzulOscuroCasiNegro), who with the deftness of a tightrope walker straddles comedy and drama, and both laughter and tears.
That’s because the story of Sara (Itsaso Arana), Alma (Mónica Miranda), Carol (María Rodríguez Soto), Leo (Mariona Terés) and Olga (Godeliv Van den Brandt) is not about cancer – especially given they’ve decided not to talk about it, even if they have the letter C ‘tattooed’ on their foreheads, as one of them puts it – but about sharing secrets, heart-to-hearts, celebrations and, above all, the things these school friends have until now never dared to do out of fear of the consequences. Each episode, in fact, explores one of the bucket list items they have pledged to tick off each day. The Girls at the Back is thus much more than just an ode to friendship; it also addresses themes such as relationships, life’s disappointments, social media and loneliness.
Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, whose work had until now largely revolved around male protagonists, shows that the sensitivity he’s known for is not dependent on gender. The director and screenwriter, who took his first steps in the ‘seventh art’ with Farmacia de Guardia, says he called on the advice of female colleagues and a psychologist who is a gender expert. And it shows, as there are no artificial dialogues or implausible situations in the series, though it sometimes verges on the odd stereotype.
The fact that the five stars of The Girls at the Back are not fixtures on the small screen helps viewers identify with them even more. They could be that group of friends you see every day at the local cafe. The supporting cast, however, does boast some more than familiar faces, including Javier Rey, Macarena García, Michelle Jenner, Carmen Machi and Antonio de la Torre. Also fostering the empathy of those who accompany the women on their journey from the other side of the screen is their range of personalities and family situations: two are married with children, another has just gone through a traumatic breakup, a fourth doesn’t know if she wants to start a family or not, and the last one lives with her father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
The soundtrack of this miniseries, which was shot last summer on locations in the provinces of Andalusia and Madrid, would also win over any 30-something indie music lover. Featuring Rigoberta Bandini (‘Too many drugs’, ‘Ay mamá’, ‘Julio Iglesias’), who also makes a cameo appearance, and bands and artists like La Casa Azul, La La Love You and Zahara, it is yet one more reason to join this journey of personal discovery.