After his wife dies Roberto (Hernan Mendoza), along with his teenage daughter Alejandra (Tessa Ia), move to Mexico City for a new beginning. Roberto, a chef, is getting ready for his new restaurant opening as he still struggles with the loss of his wife. Whereas Alejandra, after quickly finding friends at school, makes a bad decision that turns them against her and as the bullying becomes more violent, she’s chooses not to tell her father as she doesn’t want to add to his burden.
There is a fine line between what emotion a film can evoke and the rationality and relevance of the way events unfold. After Lucia uses that line like a tight rope before turning into a truly dark, horrific and distressing story that although, may be a bit random with its motivations, captures the very essence of anguish. It’s disturbing enough – seeing the level of psychological abuse that is piled on Alejandra – but it’s the fact that she keeps it from her father for, however misguided, selfless reasons that makes her an even more tragic victim.
It’s incredibly extreme, but it needs to be, showing the full extent of what teenage cruelty can involve. There are moments and scenes that are incredibly difficult to watch, however, at the same time strangely equally absorbing. To see this sort of punishment and the desperation of a character so young and so broken, you can’t help but become attached to Alejandra. You scream for her to talk to her father but understand, due to the circumstances and catalyst for her bullying, why she doesn’t. Silently visceral it makes witnessing these acts even more troubling.
Even with the quality of the film being as high as it is, if there’s one thing to take away from the flick is that Tessa Ia is a name for the future. Her to-the-bone performance is so inverted and helpless, at times like a wounded animal unknown at why it’s being tortured, that it’s actually distressing to wonder where she was able to find such vulnerability. And Franco directs it so intimately, letting the more intense and disturbing scenes play out in detail, not feeling the need
An uncompromisingly and unsettling film, After Lucia, will stay you (I can guarantee that). It’s a pull from the hip, no sugar coating kind of experience that is impossible to enjoy but absolutely captivating nonetheless. Well-handled and excellently performed, this is definitely a film and a director to keep an eye out for.