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AFTER LUCIA (2012, MEX) – 10/10

Since his appearance, Mexican independent filmmaker Michel Franco has not stopped shocking audiences. An author who found an obvious role model in his almost Austrian namesake, Michael Haneke, with each new film he seems to be trying to leave viewers literally speechless. Not only does he try, he really succeeds in it, and Franco’s shock is not there just for the sake of shock, but his intention is to completely shake the viewer. I only discovered this fascinating Mexican relatively late, so I’ve been dealing with his work a bit backwards lately, and each of his films fascinates in its own way.

“After Lucia” is probably the creepiest and scariest movie about school bullying, and the whole story is all the more shocking and scary because Franco delivers this shocking and disturbing story in a typically detached, Hanekeian way. Everything here seems somehow cold, observational and the camera is static, and in long shots we follow what is happening somewhere from a distance. Everything is shrouded in mystery when in the opening scenes we see 17-year-old Alejandra (Tessa Ia Gonzalez Norvind) traveling somewhere in the company of her depressed father Roberto (Hernan Mendoza). We soon realize that they are moving from the coastal Mexican town of Puerto Vallarte to Mexico City after her mother and his wife Lucia were killed in a traffic accident.

And everything here is filmed in a naturalistic, almost documentary style and seems terrifyingly real. Details about this family are slowly trickling in and they are dealing with this terrible loss in their own way. Roberto finds a job as a cook in a restaurant and devotes himself to work that distracts him from the tragedy and perhaps subconsciously forgets and does not realize that Alejandra is in an even worse situation. She, on the other hand, is trying to fit into a new environment and find a new company, and it seems that the class team, which consists of young men and women of some middle or upper middle class of Mexico City, is slowly accepting her. Alejandra seems to find new friends, she is invited to a party at the villa of one of her colleagues’ parents, and after she agrees to have sex with one of her colleagues and he records it on his cell phone, a real spiral of horror will begin.

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It is clear that the very next day the sex tape will be leaked on the Internet, and what will then begin to happen to this unfortunate girl is one of the most shocking and terrifying episodes in the history of cinema. All this horror further enhances Franco’s detached style, and the viewer has the impression that he is really witnessing some real school bullying, and not fiction. Alejandra what she is going through, clearly, she hides from the father, who is overwhelmed by his own problems, who cannot even imagine what is happening to his daughter. Everything we see almost really leads to a feeling of nausea, anger and disgust, both due to the fact that no one does anything and things are getting worse, as well as the realization that people are often primitive animals who will stick to the pack and the majority even though they understand that what they are doing is wrong and bad.

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“After Lucia” is a film that shows how mass psychology works in the most brutal way possible, and Franco hits a topic that most people would dance around. And without the slightest self-censorship, softening, moralizing and cleverness, it shows what the world of an abused person looks like. It is a fantastic film and about a hypocritical society in which such things happen practically every day and are moralized, wised up, and cheap political points are scored, but nothing concrete is actually done. With this shocking and hyperrealistic drama, Franco confirmed that there are simply no taboos and no brakes for him.

To some, this whole story may seem nihilistic, too dark and exaggerated, but everything we will see here is so real and so possible that it terrifies and freezes the blood in the veins. I read that many consider Franco a nihilist because not only does he have no mercy and consideration for his characters, but he also portrays the world in such a cruel and cruel way, but isn’t that exactly the world that surrounds us? Especially when it comes to Franco, a filmmaker from a country like Mexico where violence is everyday and where no one even flinches when they hear that who knows how many civilians have been killed in violent cartel confrontations.

Just as every form of behavior, sometimes, must bring some consequences, such is the case here in the shocking finale, which is also the catharsis of the entire film. “After Lucia” was Franco’s second feature film right after his equally shocking debut “Daniel and Ana” about a brother and sister who are kidnapped and forced to have sex on camera. The topics that Franco deals with may seem not only shocking, but also morbid and as something from which it would be much easier to turn your head away and deal with something harmless, something that does not force you to think and react. “After Lucia” is a film to which it is completely impossible to remain cold and a film that simply has to provoke a reaction. But what is far more terrifying and shocking than all of Franco’s films is that he finds all these topics he deals with in real life, in what surrounds him and in what really happened. Perhaps this excellent filmmaker, who received an award in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes for “After Lucia”, additionally emphasizes and exaggerates these situations, but it cannot be said that Franco turns his head away from reality.

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