After Lucia is an ultra-stylized Mexican film about loss and suffering, stoicism and shame. It’s a sober look into the reality of teenage bullying — cellphones, I swear, are weapons — and what can happen when victims feel they’ve no shoulder to lean on.
The story centers on 17-year-old Alejandra (Tessa Ía González Norvind) who moves to Mexico City with her father following the death of her mother — hence the title. In the city, Alejandra comforts her grieving father as he struggles to settle into his new job.
While she seems fine, enormous problems occur after a sex tape, which she sort-of consents to making, leaks out to the student body of her new school.
Bullying of unbelievable cruelty ensues, not to mention straight up abuse. I won’t say specifics, but I can’t remember ever wanting to punch fictional teenage boys harder, in the face. Honestly, for the entire second act, my fists were clenched, almost trembling.
To make matters worse, Alejandra’s refusal, or perhaps inability, to seek help results in an even greater tragedy — one that makes for a weirdly sad/satisfying ending.
The movie’s effectiveness stems from it’s style. Director Michel Franco’s use of a stationary camera and long long long long shots makes the action feel distant but chillingly real. Helplessness falls on the viewer as he realizes that he can’t help Alejandra, which, of course, is totally obvious. Nevertheless, he watches it anyway. Not so that he can bear witness to her suffering, but because he, if anyone, is there for her.
Other Highlights: Saturday, April 13
Born This Way. In a country that equates homosexuality with witchcraft, Cedric and Gertrude must try to survive and be true to themselves while living under the treat of extreme bigotry. (4:20 p.m.; also playing April 16 at 9:30 p.m.)
The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner. This Herzog gem is a brilliant and compact documentary that captures, with the use of extreme slowmotion, a man’s dream to fly on his skis. (5:45 p.m.)
Laurence Anyways. A trans-gender romance spans decades as its literary lead character works to feed the flames of a relationship while it’s suffocated on all fronts by family, friends, co-workers and the society at large. (8 p.m.; also playing April 21 at 9 p.m.)