a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

After Lucia / Después de Lucía

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poster_despues-de-luciaMichel Franco’s sophomore directing effort, After Lucia, shows a major talent, perhaps the major talent in a generation, coming from Mexico’s rich cinematic landscape. The plot of the film revolves around the deep and troubling extensions of bullying getting way out of hand. But the whole megillah is informed and deepened by another tragedy, the death of the titular Lucia, mother of Ale (Tessa Ia), the bullied teenager, and wife of her father, Roberto (Hernán Mendoza). After Lucia opens with Roberto, visibly distraught, picking up a car from a wrecking yard. A la Kiarostami, there is a long sequence of Roberto driving and driving. He suddenly curses, get out of the car, abandoning it in the middle of the street. We will learn that this is the car that his wife died in. He ups and moves from Puerto Vallarta to Mexico City with his daughter in tow to rebuild his life and leave the locus of tragedy behind him. He embarks on opening a restaurant. In the meantime, Alejandra finds herself in a new high school. Pretty, smart, and of a certain class, she falls in with a small clique of rich kids, finding a set of new friends. At a party one night she has drunken sex with one of them, Jose (Gonzalo Vega Sisto), who captures it all on his cell phone, passing the evidence of his conquest to any of the high school gang who wants to see. This begins the slut shaming and bullying of this “easy” girl that quickly escalates into tragic consequences. Ale’s fate goes from bad to worse. Tessa Ia gives a spellbinding performance that makes the viewer understand how an otherwise intelligent and capable young woman can fall into abject submission to the humiliations and degradations that her abusers subject her to. As Ale becomes more and more abused, she shuts down and can’t communicate her torment to anyone, particularly to her father. Her father also, stuck in not dealing with his grief over the loss of his wife, fails to communicate or understand the clues of unhappiness his daughter gives. She ultimately escapes – physically – from her bullies, but the emotional damage remains. When the details of the bullying are revealed, Roberto rightly is enraged. He finds his revenge on Jose in a devastating final scene, a long-take shot that mimics the opening sequence. At this point, the harrowing personal tragedies of Roberto and Ale take on a profundity worthy of the tales the great Greek playwrights or the story of Isaac. Director Franco fills every shot with exacting detail, a multiplicity of emotional and narrative threads – and ultimately a moral depth that makes for a stunningly great movie.

Originally published in EL Magazine, November 2013.

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 31, 2013 at 11:31 pm

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