GFF Screening dates: Friday 15th 6:45pm, Sat 16th 2:45pm
Director: Michel Franco
Starring: Tessa Ia, Gonzalo Vega Jr, Hernan Mendoza, Tamara Yezbek
The opening sentence of the GFF13’s programme blurb for Michel Franco’s /After Lucia/ reads: “[it] is one of those films that really gets under your skin”. While truer words have never been spoken, it does little to prepare you for the viewing experience. /After Lucia/ ensures you will be on the very edge of your seat, peering through half closed eyes, too scared to see what happens next but unable to look away. The ending is somehow unsatisfying but deliberately so as you’re left feeling hollow and in desperate need of some sort of comfort blanket. Or perhaps some strong alcohol.
Tessa Ia gives a wonderful performance as bullied teen, Alejandra, who moves to a new town with her chef dad, Roberto, after her mother dies tragically in a car accident. While Roberto struggles to balance a new job and his crushing grief, Alejandra finds friends easily in her new school. However, it all falls apart after a video of her having sex with one of these friends is put up on the internet leading to an ever increasing torrent of abuse.
Franco’s use of close-up is a powerful tool in creating an intense intimacy between the audience and the screen. The repeated shot of Alejandra’s face throughout provides a window into her emotions that the other characters in the film appear to miss. The power of the film is in how the technique is used. Alejandra’s role as the central character is enhanced by her near constant position in the middle of the screen. Moments where she is not feel disjointed and ofkilter, betraying her grief even when smiling.
The power of After Lucia is in no small part down to the talent of the mostly amateur actors. The believability of the teenage gang mentality is crucial for the emotional connection and every movement feels solid. The scenes of cruelty which feel painfully real with the teenagers appearing full of life and scorn and pointfully juxtaposed with a familiar reluctant and aloof appearance when confronted by superiors – the teachers and parents. Ia’s performance is the highlight of the film, as captivating as it is heartbreaking. The range Ia displays is minimalist but effective in keeping the viewer engaged throughout with the undoubtedly painful subject.
What makes After Lucia so devastating is how plausible the story is. The slut-shaming that takes place is still much too prevalent in today’s society making this close examination socially important. The fact that a video showing Alejandra engaged in consensual sex leads the other classmates to believe they have some sort of right to her body – from cutting her hair and force feeding to finally raping her – is nothing less than shocking. The constant stream of grief fails to stop even as the film reaches its final arc. The attempt at revenge in the film’s climax fails to correct all the wrong but rather adds to the heartache leaving a hollow sensation as emotions begin to drain away with the roll of the credits.
After Lucia is a powerful and evocative film guaranteed to haunt you for days. This is not a film to watch with an unsettled mind or a full stomach but should be seen by as many as possible, serving as a lesson or warning against slut-shaming and severe bullying.