After witnessing the sudden death of her father (Alterio), an officer in Franco's military, orphaned six-year-old Ana and her two sisters are left in the care of their emotionally frigid Aunt Paulina (Randall), whom Ana comes to despise with a visceral, murderous hatred. Ana's only consolation is her ability to conjure vivid visions of her deceased mother (Chaplin), and to imagine life without Paulina.
With "Cria Cuervos," Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura plunges us into a child's-eye view of the world where past and present coincide, and fantasy and reality mix — at times rather uneasily. The astonishingly naturalistic performance he wrests from young Ana Torrent (an unschooled child actor who first appeared in "The Spirit of the Beehive") is the heart and soul of this haunting film, whose title comes from a Spanish proverb. Part ghost story, part political allegory, "Cria Cuervos" is an intriguing work of pure film artistry, with Chaplin, Randall, and Florinda Chico (playing buxom, maternal housemaid Rosa) rounding out a superb cast.