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‘Clara Sola’ review: A woman wakes up to the oppression around her

‘Clara Sola’ review: A woman wakes up to the oppression around her

There is perhaps no better time than now to mainline a story of an oppressed woman pushing for restrictions in her culturally conservative world, as Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s “Clara Sola” offers with a forest full of divine energy, artistry and mystery. Centered on a turn that cannot be ignored by Wendy Chinchilla Araya as a childish mystic who was awakened to how the boundaries around her fall possibilities within, this mesmerizing first feature is a spiky original portrait of a late-breaking, rebellious femininity.

In the misty mountains of Costa Rica, 40-year-old Clara (Araya) lives with her deeply pious mother, Dona Fresia (Flor María Vargas Chaves), and the cheerful niece Maria (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza), who does double duty as a religious healer for villagers in candlelight ceremonies at home and a horse whisperer for the valued white horse of the local tourist outfit, the Yuca. These responsibilities may sound like they give Clara a certain status, but the reality is that she is more of a trained, chained pet than a self-actualized adult. She is noticeable, almost loud, quiet, in the same way that someone is being watched, and her alertness borders on wild. She is also physically bent over an unnamed illness that her mother refuses to be corrected with surgery because that is “how God gave her to me.”

Mesén refuses to explain our natural curiosity about Clara’s condition with an explanation, because she would rather draw a stark contrast between the restorative quality of the character’s midwife gifts that communicate with creatures and nature, and how these miracles are viewed in a deeply conventional, patriarchal society as channeled through a sanctified virgin. It’s clear to us that Clara is happier at adjusting to the buzz of nature (lying in the ground and listening to insects, trees or after incipient tremors) than dealing with people who probably do not see her as a thinker, feeling person anyway.

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Clara’s curly purity is something her mother is determined to protect, to a disturbing degree. Purple ribbons around their wooded property dictate how far Clara can walk, and in those moments when you watch the steamy telenovela stirring in some shameless overcoats, spice buns are taken before a preventative punishment called “chili fingers.”

But with the preparations in full swing for the niece’s upcoming quinceañera and regular visits from the slender, sweet horse trainer Santiago (Daniel Castañeda Rincón), who shows Clara a slightly crooked smile for her eccentricities, a recent increase in sexual tension is that our protagonist responds with a unifying rebellion that is both breathtaking and restless, not unlike a dancer who tests a new bodily consciousness without the limitations of choreography or accepted grace.

A film like “Clara Sola”, which Mesén co-wrote with Maria Camila Arias, only works if you have gotten the lead role and brought to life the sharpness of her perceptions. On both fronts, Mesén – a Costa Rican / Swedish filmmaker who has studied mime – demonstrates formidable film-making skills in weaving performance (from new cast to acting), cinema texture and a sprinkle of magical realism.

The dance-trained Araya is a commanding presence spiritually and physically – her charged gaze and crazy-to-powerful movements that register the power of Clara’s connection to her surroundings, and how they awaken her disruptive independence. You will swear that whatever she puts her hands and eyes on is something you can also sense, regardless of potential beauty or grief or danger. Which is also a testament to the tactile, emotional breadth of Sophie Winqvist Loggins’ naturalistically exquisite (but never flashy) cinematography, which subtly expands from shallow depth of field early to a thicker, more fluid and expansive intensity in later scenes – like a window. patiently made larger.

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Although it is low-key and lyrical in the images and sounds, “Clara Sola” should not be confused with some heartbeat. of breaking out, and looking at the emotional, even physical, wreck of her elemental power as a necessary disaster. “Carrie” told it like a case study in horror; in Mesén’s hands, it is female defiance as a natural film.

“Clara Sola”

In Spanish with English subtitles

Not rated

Operating time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Player: Opens July 8, Landmark Westwood

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