After the death of one of the family, a father and daughter move to Mexico City from a small seaside town for a fresh start, but Alejandra (Tessa Ia) is bullied at her high school after a seemingly innocent mistake, leading her to take drastic action.
Director Michel Franco made two films in 2011, After Lucia being one of these. The film deals with the issues of bullying in high school, the lengths these teens will go to in order to humiliate one of their number who falls out of their favour and how far a father will go to protect and avenge his daughter.
Although Alejandra may seem like the passive receiver of all of this aggression, it is easy to see why she decides that no reaction is the best reaction. Tessa Ia conveys the character as a girl who is good-natured, but suffering after the loss of her mother. She seeks comfort wherever she can find it, but when she has a tryst with a boy from school – who her group of friends have decided is off limits – their retaliation is fierce. Ale suffers through mocking, name-calling, a vile incident with a ‘birthday cake’ and, eventually, rape. Her final abuse is being urinated on by one of her former friends, and she simply walks into the sea to escape. As time passes, the light disappears from Ale’s eyes and, since her father is suffering his own issues, she sees no other option.
The group of her ‘friends’ take delight in their destruction of this young woman, and even when she goes missing, it seems that their solemnity is due to fear of punishment, rather than remorse at what they have done. It is easy for the audience to relate to, and fear, this group of teenagers, as they are all too familiar; every school has this group of people and each of us have encountered them in some form through our lives.
Once his daughter disappears, Roberto (Hernan Mendoza) takes a rash, but understandable course of action. He has stood helplessly by as his daughter’s life is changed forever, but finally sees a way in which to deal with his grief and rage and – despite the fact that this goes against the ideals of ‘right thinking’ people, Roberto’s actions are extreme, yet understandable.
Michel Franco has created a slow burning film in Después de Lucía (After Lucia). For most of it’s 103 minute running time, it feels as though this is a character study and a portrait of bullying, but in the swift and brutal final act, the theme is finally revealed. Roberto may have been helpless to prevent the death of his wife, but he is not going to stand by after his daughter apparently suffers a similar fate. Después de Lucía (After Lucia) is a film that the audience needs to stay with in order to appreciate it. This is not a fast or instantly gratifying film, but it is a worthwhile one.
Después de Lucía (After Lucia) debuted at the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival 2012. The film is not always an easy watch, and brings up issues that we may think are long since forgotten. The performances are understated and, while we may not always agree with the lead character’s actions, they are understandable as these people are driven to the edge of their endurance in a search for comfort and home.