Mexican director Michel Franco returns after 2010's 'Daniel & Ana' with the distressing yet gripping drama, 'After Lucia'. Exploring the relationship between father and daughter, amid bullying and grief, 'After Lucia' won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes this year and is Mexico's entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. Appropriate accolades for a film of such intensity.
Following the death of his wife in a car accident, Roberto (Hernán Mendoza) and his teenage daughter Alejandra (Tessa Ia) move to another city - a new beginning awaiting them. Roberto finds acclimatising to his new surroundings difficult, still overcome by the emotion of the passing of his late wife. Alejandra finds a group of new friends at her new school but soon she becomes subject to a sustained, and quite horrific, campaign of bullying.
Neither father nor daughter feel comfortable talking with one another, for fear of disruption, both in an emotional and physical sense. Instead, they trade their words for actions - Roberto often succumbing to his rage while Alejandra opts for complete submission then flight, as her situation becomes increasingly untenable.
It feels particularly appropriate that 'After Lucia' has screened alongside 'Compliance' at the 2012 London Film Festival - the latter causing such discomfort and disgust with viewers that it caused a mass walkout during one of its screening. Both have some basis in true stories, presenting a rather depressing and repugnant perspective on human nature.
The scale of the bullying against Alejandra is shocking, to the extent of attempted rape. Whether the situation would ever be allowed to escalate in such a fashion is debateable yet a sense of realism develops till the finale, which is provocative but perhaps overly melodramatic. Michel Franco deserves immense credit for creating such believable scenes otherwise, directing his excellent young cast to quite unpleasant (yet sadly believable) ends.
'After Lucia' is a powerful, affecting film derailed somewhat by its ending, which proves surprisingly less believable than the horrific teenage behaviour displayed during the film. At times, incredibly tense and disturbing, 'After Lucia' will unsettle its audience members in a manner unmatched by few other films.
'After Lucia' screened at the 56th BFI London Film Festival. UK release still to be confirmed.