'Valeria' Review: Protagonist’s unearned confidence despite her life splitting at seams makes show relatable
This review contains no spoilers for ‘Valeria’
There is an enormous amount of pressure around the arbitrary idea of getting your act together by the time you are 30. You are supposed to have a successful and fulfilling career. You’re supposed to have found a partner, possibly “the one”. You’re supposed to know what you want from life. You’re supposed to have a plan. The problem is, especially for millennials who were born in the early ‘90s, as the big three-zero nears, this ideal life that you are supposed to have by this age seems only like a farce.
This leads to a kind of existential crisis, where one is caught between what they are supposed to be, what they want to be, and what they are expected to be. It’s a clump of confusion further fuelled by a hypercompetitive economy and world that is changing every fraction of a microsecond. At the heart of ‘Valeria’, Netflix’s new Spanish dramedy lies this existential crisis.
The eponymous Valeria (Diana Gómez) in the show is a writer who suffers from impostor syndrome. She is married, but not happily. It’s not as if her marriage is loveless, or there is conflict. It’s more that two people who do not understand each other’s passions and dreams are stuck together, unable to attend to each other’s emotional needs because of the cruelties of a highly competitive economy. It is not a marriage of convenience. It is no marriage at all, save on paper.
Her life is plagued with constant problems. Unemployment, writer’s block, love, everything seems to turn into a roadblock in the way to an ideal life for her. What makes Valeria extraordinarily relatable, however, is how she carries herself. Her world may be splitting at the seams, and her life may be a clueless mess, but Valeria carries herself with an air of unearned confidence. It’s obviously a coping mechanism for her usual anxiety-ridden self that is visible to few. It is a way to fight everything around her. It also seems to be her mantra: pretend everything is great, and soon enough it will be.
Call it a delusion, or call it bravado, Valeria’s journey through life in a posh Madrid is a great study of human character. Her pretense is what makes her life-like. Her make-believe image is what makes her real. Her lies highlight her truth. And it is in these contradictions that the show, based on Spanish author Elísabet Benavent’s ‘Valeria’ saga, shines.
But it’s not just Valeria who is living a lie. It is her husband Adrián (Ibrahim Al Shami J), her friends Lola (Silma López), Carmen (Paula Malia), and Nerea (Teresa Riott), or just about any character of significance on the show, they all try to project happiness while not displaying what they really are.
In a way, the show is a vivid representation of the dissatisfactions of modern life. Outside the glitz of the bright lights of Madrid, the loud parties, the clandestine affairs, and the superficial happiness, everyone leads a double life. One that they project. And one that they truly endure day after day. Even in the form of a romantic comedy, it’s a tale of the tragedies of a world that’s too fast for anyone to understand what they are.
‘Valeria’ drops on Netflix on May 8.