Thursday, 2 May 2013


A hot and cold experience - it makes your blood boil whilst sending chills down your spine. Life for a teenager joining a new school after the death of her mother must be grim enough, but Michel Franco employs a Michael Haneke-like approach to this high concept, and lays the torture on thick. It reaches a point, actually rather swiftly, where it becomes clear that Franco's film is mere provocation, humiliation porn, like Saw without the graphic physical violence and with much more emotional violence. It sure strikes a strong chord, though, and After Lucia is an expertly mounted and performed film to boot. Franco understands the teenage lifestyle better than most adult filmmakers, and his resolute detachment keeps the moralising firmly at bay. He has a palpable gift for mastering the basic requirements of directing in an artful but not intrusive manner, creating great depth of field in the image via skillful camera placement, drawing the eye to key figures in the frame and manufacturing a crucial sense of distance. This applies too to his aural work, as he immerses us in his lead characters' place and state of mind by rendering them taciturn and amplifying specific background noises, and even the atmospheric noise. It's a direct sensory line to the heart, and Franco plays it like a pro, which helps to make After Lucia the disturbing, riveting film that it is. Tessa Ia conveys an unknown, unspoken grief in Alejandra, which even she seems unaware of, and her inward but not remote portrayal of this quietly desperate adolescent is excellent. Hernan Mendoza is also extremely good as Alejandra's father, whose pain is more visible, although whose comprehension of it is no greater.