After Lucia

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Mexico (2012).  Dir: Michel Franco, Scr: Michel Franco

The film opens with a man picking up his car from a repair shop.  The camera joins him in the cabin of the car as he drives off.  He stops at some lights, puts the keys on the dashboard and just walks away.  It’s a sequence that sets the tone.  We get a sense that in Franco’s storytelling the audience is encouraged to think: the camera sees what a passer-by would see; context is incomplete, with bits of information sometimes supplied later.  But soon we learn that the man, Roberto, lost his wife in a car accident and is moving to Mexico City to start a new life with a new job, accompanied by his daughter, Ale.  We follow them as they each deal with their grief.  Roberto, initially brittle and angry, becomes increasingly listless.  Ale, on the other hand, seems sensible and bright eyed – she makes new friends quickly and devotes energy to helping her father.  But after a drunken soiree with her new friends Ale is ridiculed and soon becomes the target of bullying, with unrelenting and escalating cruelty.  After a period of time, she goes missing.  When her father pieces together some background to her disappearance, he sets out on a course of action which he pursues very deliberately and single-mindedly to the film’s stunning climax.

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It’s a film that deals credibly with internalization and the inability to communicate as people deal with grief and, particularly, guilt – Ale’s behaviour throughout is because she feels responsible for her mother’s death and her father’s sadness; it’s characters are very human, all have flaws;  it is bleakly philosophical on how “violence exists in our society on a daily basis”, how we may becoming indifferent to it and how the intimate and the personal are insulated from broader society only very precariously, and; it is powerful, made more so by Franco’s use of a single, static, “objective” camera that brings a natural rawness.   It’s own flaw, though, is that there is just a little too much time spent showing the spiral of increasingly cruel bullying.  But it is compelling viewing, with great performances from Tessa Ia as Ale and Hernan Mendoza as Roberto, intelligently made, with an ending that will stop your heart.

Also by Michel Franco:

Daniel and Anna (2009)

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