Here’s a weekend binge-watch for you: Morocco: Love in Times of War, a series from Spain that I marathon-watched over two evenings.
That I am still recovering from watching thirteen hour-plus-long episodes in such a short period of time is an altogether different matter. Needless to say, though, I was hooked on this show from the off.
Morocco: Love in Times of War (Tiempos de Guerra) is a period drama set against the backdrop of the Spanish-Moroccan Rif War (aka the War of Melilla) in 1921 North Africa.
The war has been raging for about a year and has taken a heavy toll on the Spanish Army, with thousands of soldiers dead and injured. With casualties mounting, Queen Victoria Eugenia orders a group of Spanish Red Cross nurses to go to the Rif region to provide care to the wounded.
Leading the nurses is Duchess of Victoria Carmen Angoloti (Alicia Borrachero, Crematorium, Isabel), the general inspector of hospitals in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco. She’s an empathetic, hard-working, no-nonsense woman who gets into a power struggle with Colonel Vincente Ruiz-Márquez (José Sacristán (Velvet) over which of them will direct the makeshift hospital’s operations. Carmen is a nurse, Vincente is a doctor; he’s a senior military officer, she has the ear of the Queen. (Almost) enough said.
As for the nurses, all but one are from the upper echelons of Spanish society and have never had hands-on, practical experience being a nurse. They learned the basics from a book and a training course. Soon they will be getting their hands very dirty, indeed.
These women include widow Pilar Muñiz de Solaruce (Verónica Sánchez, Sin identidad, Gran Reserva. El origen), the methodical and perfectionist right-hand woman to the Duchess, and Magdalena Medina (Anna Moliner, La sagrada família, Club Super 3), a generous, kind, fair- and open-minded princess who volunteers to care for the sick and needy.
Another young woman who joins them, despite having no nursing training at all, is the fiery and impulsive Julia Ballester (Amaia Salamanca, Velvet, Grand Hotel, Sin tetas no hay paraíso). For this she had to convince the Duchess that she truly wants to be a nurse and help with the war effort. Her declaration is sincere, but there’s also more to it; Julia is going to Rif to find her brother and fiancé, both of whom are missing and presumed dead.
The one certified registered nurse is Verónica Montellano (Alicia Rubio, Love in Difficult Times), a stubborn and standoffish young woman who hails from the working class and resents her wealthy and inexperienced colleagues. And there is more to her than meets the eye.
The horrors of war are visited on soldiers, civilians, and nurses alike. For some of them, so does love. New love blooms when (and between whom) it is least expected, sparks of love are reignited if not entirely desired, and unrequited love is a serious bummer. Add in love of country and love for one’s chosen profession and watch the complications arise in the relationships.
And it is these relationships that make Morocco: Love in Times of War compelling. Even scenes set during battles or captivity have at their core at least one relationship dynamic. Human beings have the capacity to be both generous and selfish, courageous and cowardly, compassionate and abusive, and the like, and how each character chooses to be with a beloved, a comrade, or a perceived or actual enemy is where the drama lies.
While some of the acting was a bit overly emotive in the first few episodes, it evened out by the midpoint of the series. Ditto that for the character development, which progressed fairly steadily so that (most of) the key personages had more depth and were more character than caricature. And as for the soapy, telenovela bits, they work really well in this series.
The war isn’t over at the end of the last episode, and where we leave off with the characters leaves the door wide open for a second season, so here’s hoping that Morocco: Love in Times of War gets one!
Featuring in the series are Álex García (Love in Difficult Times), Álex Gadea (El secreto de Puente Viejo), Vicente Romero (Con el culo al aire), Alicia Rubio (Love in Difficult Times), Cristóbal Suárez (Seis hermanas), Silvia Alonso (Tierra de lobos), Daniel Lundh (Midnight in Paris), Federico Pérez Rey (Era visto), Nuria Herrero (Arrayán), Toni Agustí (Velvet), Miguel Rellán (Compañeros), and Carmen Balagué (Majoria absoluta).
Morocco: Love in Times of War, a Netflix Original series, is currently streaming in the US and UK, exclusively on Netflix.
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