LIFF27 - After Lucia - Cinema Review

'There's little gentleness here. Actions designed to wound create visible gouges.'

One of the many things to love about After Lucia, and there are many, is that it does not make things simple. Writer/director, Michel Franco may be telling an essentially simple story, but that does not mean the execution need be straightforward.

Abstractly introduced, father Roberto (a fantastic, hulking HernĂ¡n Mendoza) and daughter Alejandra (a subtle, brilliant, Tessa Ia) are moving some distance, having clearly suffered a tragedy. Landing in what appears to be a good school, Ale falls in with a crowd of what seem to be good friends, until things start to go very wrong indeed.

Because Franco does not settle for simplicity in the above equation, he ends up with a film of layers; complicated deep and dangerous, fraught with questions and a heavy dose of blame, an element which feels ill-explored sometimes in cinema.

Blame in After Lucia is fascinating to contemplate and doing so shows just how well managed Franco's narrative is. It's tempting to lay some at the foot of Roberto, but Franco spares him full brunt due to the narrative conceit that he is grieving and struggling to cope. It's interesting how the blame swirling around Roberto for what happens then twists come the end, as he in turn arguably makes a mistake in the direction he points his finger.

As a School Drama, one of the easiest labels it is possible to apply to After Lucia, Franco dedicates himself to attempting realism. Unlike something like Mean Girls, the harsh actions of teenagers who perhaps do not appreciate the potential horrors of their cruelnesses are laid bare. There's little gentleness here. Actions designed to wound create visible gouges. Alejandra may bear them bravely for the most part but there is a good thirty or so minutes in this that are amongst the most difficult to watch of this or any year.

I expected walkouts but everything is presented with such an everyday and compelling eye that there were in fact none. Franco is not interested though in leaving you settled comfortably. There is real potential and believability in what happens here and the director knows that that is as terrifying as he needs to be. If you've got a teenage daughter, be prepared: this is your worst nightmare, and then some.

Franco talks in the LIFF programme about the film being about violence, but a film in which the violence is kept largely off screen. In a way I disagree. A truly shocking action by Javier (Francisco Rueda) may take place away from us, but in the hands of these characters a cake or even a set of simple instructions become weapons. The everyday in this becomes violent, a sign, Franco says, of our world, and in particular of his native Mexico.

The only error, and I've had some time thinking about how bad an error this is, is the conclusion, which wanders far away from believability, changes Roberto unrecognisably and really breaks the rhythm in its tracks. The truly great work elsewhere make it forgiveable.

After Lucia screens again at LIFF27 on Tuesday 12th November at 18.30.

The 27th Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) takes place from the 6th-21st November at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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