Jaime Rosales has a reputation for tackling big themes with austerity and slowness in a way that ticks critics’ boxes but leaves viewers alienated. With Petra, he maintains the trend toward accessibility he started with 2014’s Beautiful Youth by retaining his signature formal techniques but front-loading his film with a new (for him) element: a satisfyingly complex plotline. The result is an intense, cunningly structured and rewarding item about a woman’s search for her father […].
After the death of her mother, Julia (Petra Martinez), Petra [Barbara Lennie] shows up at a large family estate in the Catalan countryside to study under Jaume (Joan Botey), the aging artist and owner. The concerns of Petra are the universal ones of Greek tragedy, updated to contemporary Spain, and it’s from Greek tragedy that the tight, complex plotting, the timelessness and the air of impending doom that hangs over Petra are drawn.
Like the rest of the cast, Botey’s performance is contained and intense, adjectives that indeed describe Petra as a whole. Other performances, from a cast including several of Spain’s finest, are up to the mark: […] Lennie consolidates her reputation as perhaps Spain’s finest female character actor, her tightly controlled performance suggesting that she, like everyone else, is under instructions to counteract the lurid material by keeping it downbeat.
Jonathan Holland, The Hollywood Reporter