When Subtlety Shocks
After the tragic death of his wife, Roberto (Hernán Mendoza) and his daughter Alejandra (Tessa Ia) move to Mexico City hoping to start over. And things go well as Roberto finds himself a new job whilst Alejandra quickly fits in to her new school, makes friends and even finds herself with a possible boyfriend. But then Alejandra learns that starting again may not be as easy as she had hoped.
"After Lucia" starts with a man picking up a car from the garage having been repaired, we hear the extent of the work which was done to the car and it is clear from what is said it had been in a pretty major collision. We never see the man's face but from a seat in the back of the car we observe as he drives the car away along a series of roads all in silence and with cars appearing in the rear view mirror till the man just stops, gets out and walks away, leaving the car at what appears to be a junction. This opening is both captivating and annoying as you can't stop watching as you wait for something to happen and then when he abandons the car it is a bit of a let down.
But that scene has both depth and is symbolic as through what we witness and read into it we discover the man's wife had died in a car accident and his abandoning of the car was a sign of him moving on. And there are more of these touches through out especially during the first half of "After Lucia" which whilst exceptionally quiet appears to be quite traditional with a story about a father and daughter starting a fresh and dealing with the loss of a loved one. We have aspects of the daughter doing a few household style jobs her mother would have done whilst the father has the weight of the world on his shoulders. And it has to be said that whilst beautifully filmed and quite nice in its subtlety the familiarity of the set up makes it feel ordinary.
But then "After Lucia" takes a surprise turn and I had better say spoiler alert as what happens is so unexpected after such a quiet, subtle start.
What goes on next is Alejandra becoming bullied at school when after going to a party and having sex with the guy she likes footage of them doing it gets circulated. And the bullying is disgusting as on a school trip she has no end of things done to her including being raped. This has a knock on effect which I won't go in to but it basically turns the movie on its head and takes you by surprise. All of which serves a purpose as writer and director Michel Franco seems to be making a statement about young people and the internet, lulling us in to that false sense of security with a quiet first half to increase its impact.
What this all boils down to is "After Lucia" ends up a fascinating movie with a real mix of things from subtlety to shock value as well as looking at the mentality of youth in an internet world. It isn't for everyone and not just because it is a foreign language movie but because the subtlety requires you to read between the lines rather than waiting to be spoon fed everything.