The Time in Between (El tiempo entre costuras in the original Spanish) is a sweeping drama from Spain. Sira Quiroga (Adriana Ugarte) begins her life as a dressmaker in Madrid just before the Spanish Civil War. She becomes part of history as circumstances compel her into spying for the British during WW II. Spoilers ahead.
Sira learned her skills as a seamstress from her mother (Elvira Mínguez). She’s engaged to a nice, respectable public servant when she meets Ramiro (Rubén Cortada).
Ramiro sweeps Sira off her feet. The man is beyond sexy and Sira is not immune. She dumps her financé.
When her previously unknown father (Carlos Olalla) meets her for the first time, he gives her money and jewelry.
What followed was such a cliché that I almost gave up on the series in the first episode. I’m glad I didn’t. Once she got past her youthful mistakes, Sira became a strong and admirable character. Ramiro takes Sira to Morocco. He spends all her money and deserts her. She’s left pregnant with huge debts.
To escape the debts in Tangiers, Sira boards a bus. She doesn’t care where she’s going. She miscarries the baby while on the bus and almost dies from blood loss. When she comes out of it she’s in Tétouan, which is a Moroccan port city in what was then the Spanish protectorate. It’s near the Strait of Gibraltar.
If that sounds like too much information about where she ended up, everything in the remainder of the story hinged on getting Sira to Tétouan in 1936. Both Germans and Brits were swarming around Tétouan hoping to gain some advantage over the view of the Strait of Gibraltar before the coming war in Europe.
Sira slowly recovers her health but can’t leave Morocco because the local police have her passport due to all the debts Ramiro stuck her with.
Sira moves into a hostel run by Candelaria (Mari Carmen Sánchez). When Candalaria learns Sira can sew she helps her set up a shop. She provides a helper in form of Jamilla (Alba Flores). Sira becomes dressmaker to the wives of the German soldiers there. She has a life, friends. She’s content except for worrying about her mother.
She sews for and befriends Rosalinda Fox (Hannah New), an actual historical British spy. Rosalinda is the mistress of a German officer named Beigbeder (Tristán Ulloa), another real historical character. The friendship between Sira and Rosalinda is one of the best parts of the series.
Sira meets and is attracted to a British journalist (who never seems to write anything) named Marcus Logan (Peter Vives). Marcus somehow manages to get Sira’ mother out of war-torn Madrid and bring her to Morocco and safety. The initial relationship between Sira and Marcus goes no further than a goodbye kiss when he leaves Morocco, but yowzaa Adriana Ugarte is good at that smokey-eyed I want you look.
When Franco announced the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the Spanish were exhausted by the fighting and wanted nothing more than to never be involved in another war. Rosalinda impresses on Sira that she is trying to keep Spain out of the coming war in Europe and wants Sira’s help to do it.
Back to Madrid
Sira agrees to return to Madrid and become an espionage agent for the British. Her mother remains in Morocco and continues to run her business there.
Sira is given a new name and a passport making her a Moroccan. Her new name is Arish Agoriuq, her real name spelled backwards. She is set up with a business operation and must find a way to get the wives of German officials as her clients. Two young women who speak both Spanish and German are hired as her helpers.
Sira worms her way into the lives of the German women, is invited to their events, and learns much about the doings of the German officers – mostly where they are going and when. She use a pattern of Morse Code dots and dashes on dress patterns to communicate with her British handler.
She’s under strict orders to never see anyone from her old life. But Sira has deep emotional attachments to people she knew before.
Her former financé Ignacio (Raúl Arévalo) shows up. He tells her about her former employer Ms. Manuelo (Elena Irureta) and her childhood best friend Paquita (Pepa Rus). These three all know who she really is. When she can’t keep herself from helping Ms. Manuelo and Paquita she attracts attention.
There’s a man outside her workshop all the time, watching. He turns out to be an employee of her father’s. She starts getting to know her father. They are seen in public places, which puts her in jeopardy with her German clients because he is allied with the British.
Her British handler Hillgarth (Ben Temple) wants her to get information on a Portuguese business man named Da Silva (Filipe Duarte). She does meet him. He’s taken with her. She goes to Portugal, ostensibly to buy fabric from his import business. While in Portugal she does more and more risky things. Da Silva realizes she’s spying on him.
In Portugal Sira also reunites with Rosalinda Fox and Marcus Logan. Sira and Marcus are just attracted to each other as they were in Morocco. They have some dangerous adventures together while being hunted by Da Silva. Sira finally understands something that seemed obvious from the start: Marcus is working for the British, too.
Sira and Marcus get back to Madrid, only to discover Da Silva has followed them. The exciting final episode puts them both in danger and brings them even closer together.
Gorgeous to Watch
Watching The Time in Between is a gorgeous experience. Sira’s strength and intelligence take her where she’s going, but Adriana Ugarte is a beautiful woman, an important aspect of Sira’s success. Adriana Ugarte’s an accomplished actress who imbues Sira’s travails through her story with every possible emotion. Adriana Ugarte quite rightfully won numerous Best Actress awards for her work in this series.
The photography and direction emphasize the beauty and exotic charm all around Sira. They also emphasize how Sira’s own glamour and beauty helped her reach her goals. Her power over men (and possibly women) was lovingly explored.
The high fashion garments that Sira wears and creates for her clients are lovely to see. The settings in Madrid, Lisbon, Tangiers and Tétouan are rich and lush. Locations in Morocco especially are beautifully chosen. The details of life in the late 1930s and early 1940s are authentically captured. The Spanish seem to have many more period vehicles than American filmmakers. There were dozens of them.
The piano theme music and the orchestral score for the series were well done, but I must comment on the jazz clubs. Many scenes in the series took place in clubs with swinging jazz bands. Each of the bands earned a long look from the camera.
The band I most loved seeing was in Rosalinda’s nightclub in Portugal. It was an all woman band, something so bold for the 1940s I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All the more reason for Sira to love Rosalinda’s taste and sensibility.
The Time in Between is an enormous saga. There are 17 episodes in the series. Sira doesn’t go back to Madrid to begin her life as a spy until episode 9.
The series is based on the novel by María Dueñas. María Dueñas also wrote much of the screenplay adapting the story. The pacing is slow and rich with detail about Sira’s life and business. The passing years and the larger historical events influencing the world at the time were introduced in almost stately fashion.
Sira was such a strong enough character that merely being involved in her life and relationships was compelling. I never felt a need for the story to hurry or for the focus to move away from Sira and onto historical events. Sira was a woman alone who survived great hardships and challenges, fascinating in every way. I loved her courage, her intelligence, her loyalty, and her determination.
Watch the Trailer for The Time in Between
The Time in Between is available on Netflix. I don’t see it anywhere else like iTunes or YouTube. Amazon has the DVDs but only in Spanish with no subtitles. If you have Netflix, give it a try. I think you’ll like it.