Land of Women Review

Land of Women premieres Wednesday, June 26 on Apple TV+.

Summer is the time to indulge in a little TV getaway, and Apple TV+’s Land of Women is a charming streaming equivalent of a vacation beach read. (It’s based on a book, too: Sandra Barneda’s bestselling novel La Tierra de las Mujeres.) Mostly shot on location in the Spanish autonomy of Catalonia, the series instantly transports us along with protagonist Gala (Eva Longoria), her 17-year-old daughter, Kate (Victoria Bazúa), and her aging mother, Julia (Carmen Maura), to the vineyards of Julia’s hometown, the picturesque La Muga. It’s far from a happy homecoming: Free-spirited Julia left Spain 50 years ago under a scandalous cloud, losing contact with both her younger sister and the place where she came of age. Julia’s reputation hasn’t softened with time, nor has her wonderfully unapologetic approach to interacting with the gossipy community of La Muga. There are echoes of Mamma Mia! to this setup, and Land of Women overall – it takes several cues (minus the singing) from the beloved island rom-com, even as it works its own “returning to your roots” angle with aplomb.

It also wastes no time showing the luxurious life Gala is leaving behind – one that was upended by her husband’s criminal business dealings. Land of Women’s opening sequence sets the stakes high, juxtaposing the opening of Gala’s wine shop with threats to her life and those of Kate and Julia. Unfortunately, there’s an air of danger lacking here, as every single plot twist in these six episodes is telegraphed. With so many rom-com ingredients in the mix – slapstick meet-cutes, sexually charged arguments – Land of Women struggles to strike a proper balance whenever it attempts a more serious tone. Gala fears she, Kate, and Julia will suffer the consequences of the $15 million debt racked up by her MIA husband, Fred (James Purefoy). But the two henchmen dispatched to look for Gala in Spain are so thinly drawn and cartoonish, it feels like a “Bang!” flag might fly out of their guns at any moment.

Land of Women Gallery

But Land of Women isn’t without its highlights. The family dynamics and the tension within the town of La Muga are allowed to breathe – even when Gala takes a steamroller approach to her claim to some property in the town. While the dialogue is multilingual (English, Spanish, and Catalan are all spoken onscreen), Gala can’t help but live up to the “arrogant American” label she’s branded with following her first encounter with town heartthrob Amat (Santiago Cabrera). Gala doesn’t play the dumb tourist, but her entitlement would be off-putting if she weren’t also on the receiving end of comical misfortunes like getting drenched by a sudden rainstorm or being sprayed with mud. This is one place where Land of Women’s predictability is an advantage: The moment we see Gala dressed head-to-toe in cream, we know she’s asking for a trip to the dry cleaner. Longoria has great physical comedy timing, and Land of Women puts that talent to great use.

There’s tremendous screwball energy in Gala’s interactions with Amat, and Longoiria’s crackling chemistry opposite Cabrera quickly makes you forget there’s a ring on Gala’s finger. That’s far from the only obstacle to a potential union, and their potential romance is well-paced. Even more rewarding is watching Gala, Julia, and Kate interact with each other. Each withholds in their own way, but nothing is stronger than this trio when their backs are against the wall. Julia’s health and the early stages of dementia make her return to La Muga all the more poignant; the same goes for the way flashbacks to her youth intersect with the present day. It’s in these scenes, where forgiveness and family overlap, that Land of Women’s emotional whiplash is the least jarring.

Kate is on the verge of adulthood, and the trans teen doesn’t have the easiest time finding her voice. While she doesn’t know why her mother pulled her out of boarding school for a surprise girls’ trip with her grandmother, there is an underlying tension to Kate having to source hormone medication in a small town that’s expertly and sensitively navigated by creators Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, and Paula Fernández. Newcomer Bazúa astounds in her first TV role, matching Longoria and Maura’s energy, emotion, and playfulness. Even when the goofier parts of the story threaten to stomp on its subtler notes, the three stars remain infinitely watchable.

The people and scenery of La Muga provide further reasons to tune in. The vineyards aren’t just a superfluous backdrop – there’s an intoxication to watching the women who work there plying their craft (even if we are getting the CliffsNotes version). If nothing else, Land of Women made me crave a red wine from a small town in Catalonia. The local tourism board owes a big thank you to Campos, Neira, and Fernández.

By the end of the finale, I was hoping for a second season.

While Land of Women’s premise – and the amount of story it contains – might fall into “could’ve been a movie” territory, it does provide its leading ladies more depth than a two-hour runtime would allow. In fact, by the end of the finale, I was already hoping for a second season. It might not be breaking new ground in its depiction of a woman who loses it all, only to find something more valuable where she least expects it, but even in its paint-by-numbers moments, Land of Women provides the type of escapism you want from a sunshine-soaked tipple.

This post was originally published on IGN

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