After Lucia (Michel Franco,2012): Mexico/France
Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed at Mann’s Chinese Theatre as part of the 2012 AFI Film Festival.
A mistake filmmakers occasionally make is to make their protagonist stupid so that all the drama that drives the film is the result of one stupid decision after another. Such is the case with After Lucia. Decision after decision you are left wondering why would she do that when she could easily have done this? You are left with two choices: you can be frustrated by it, or you can laugh at it. I did a little of both.
After his wife’s death in a car accident, Roberto (Hernan Mendoza) moves with his daughter Alejandra (Tessa la Gonzalez Norvind) to a new town to start over. He takes a position as a head chef, but is still struggling with the death of his wife. Alejandra, initially, adjusts much better when she is able to make friends with the popular kids. However, this is short lived after she allows one of the boys of that group to record them having sex on his phone. Soon the video is sent to everyone and Lucia is harassed at school. The harassment progresses to the point where Lucia is practically the slave of everyone at school.
The film is driven by one bad decision after another by Alejandra until she becomes completely submissive to her persecutors. She lets the boy whom she just got together with at the party record them having sex on his phone. What did she think was going to happen? When two other students record her in the bathroom she shows a little fight by breaking his phone only to hold her tongue about the incident and when the boy tells on her, making her dad have to buy the guy a new iphone. It continues like this where Alejandra does not even try to help herself. When a character so willingly lets herself become a victim it is hard not to become frustrated with her.
The events in the film could certainly happen, but it’s hard for me to imagine a group of teenagers so completely turning on one of their friends the way it is depicted in the film. However, even if it were completely factual, not everything that really happens in life makes for good cinema and having to suffer through an unlikeable doormat of a character like Alejandra is not enjoyable on any level. It only makes you angry.
It’s very common to make despicable, or even dumb characters that we love despite them being the cause of their own misery. They don’t have to be saints, or to do the right thing, or even the smart thing all of the time, but the director should do something to make them likeable. I walked out of the film more upset and frustrated by Alejandra and her stupidity than the people who bullied her. I’m sure this is not what the director intended.