Films about schools and students seem to be the latest trend to sweep independent cinema, with Afterschool, We Need To Talk About Kevin and Goodbye, First Love all making waves in the past few years. But none of these films come as close to greatness as Michel Franco’s Un Certain Regard winner, After Lucia, or, as it’s otherwise known, one of the best two-thirds of a movie I’ve seen all year. Following the death of her mother, 17 year old Alejandra and her quiet father, Roberto, move to a new town. Everything’s good for a while, with Roberto getting a new job and Alejandra making friends very easily, but when one drunken mistake ruins everything, both their lives are ruined forever.
From the opening shot, a static shot through the window of a car from the back seat that ends with the driver abandoning the vehicle in the middle of a busy road, it’s obvious that there’s something bubbling under the surface. Jump forward a bit and our thoroughly likeable, easygoing protagonist is, well, just easy, setting off a catastrophic and unbearably harrowing chain of events. Think Michael Haneke meets Suburgatory, and you’re about half way there. But Franco’s control of the story is questionable at best. The motives for Alejandra’s passive attitude to her bullying problem have been explained in interviews but are never explored fully on screen, and the film’s final act veers wildly into Taken territory, leaving a number of plot strands unfinished. It’s a real shame, too, as After Lucia has the potential to be a genuinely great movie. Ironically, it’s the passivity of Franco’s directorial voice that holds it back.
- Mattt Mansfield