Después de Lucía [2012]

Directed by: Michel Franco
Written by: Michel Franco
Starring: Tessa Ia, Gonzalo Vega Jr., Hernán Mendoza, Tamara Yazbek Bernal, José María Torre
Trivia: Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes Film Festival; Mexico’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

Mexican teensploitation film is one of the most intense cinema experiences I’ve had this year. I knew the movie dealt with the ubiquitous issue of bullying, but I wasn’t ready for everything that was thrown at me by writer and director Michel Franco.

Despite revolving around a familiar subject, Franco’s harrowing film kept surprising me. Add to that a ballsy narrative that defies convention and you get indie torture porn with serious dramatic heft.

Alejandra (Tessa Ia) just moved to Mexico City from Puerto Vallarta after the death of her mother. She’s a well-to-do kid with a chef father and though initially shy, she fits in rather quickly with her new buddies.

Everything goes awry when, during a weekend trip to the country, she and a classmate have sex and record it on a mobile phone. When she returns home, she finds that the clip is all over the web. That’s when hell starts.

The taunts by the people at her school, while not justifiable, are certainly understandable. But everything begins to escalate after Ale starts to fight back. Their former “friends” show their true colors; they’re irredeemable scum.

These are not your standard bullies, the ones who bang the small kids against their lockers and steal their lunches; these are full-on psychopaths. Scenes of their abuse are raw and incredibly affecting, especially when she endures it with little hesitation; she has resigned herself to their physical and psychological violence.

You’ll even wonder if the girl deserves everything that’s happening for being so passive. But no. No one deserves this kind of treatment. And how can someone put up a fight when her spirit has been broken so aggressively?

The movie has some serious flaws, particularly when it comes to some of its characters’ actions and decisions, which seem unrealistic even if you take everything else into account, but a very good central performance from Tessa Ia (The Burning Plain) and a young director that channels Von Trier and Haneke into his provocative work, make Después de Lucía a film deserving of its (past and future) accolades.