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Clara Sola: Review


“Clara Sola” is a film by the Costa Rican-Swedish Nathalie Àlvarez Mesén presented on July 8 in Cannes during the Directors’ Fortnight and competing for the Golden Camera. After several short films “Filip” (2015), “Asunder” (2015) and “Letting Go” (2016), this is her first feature film.  As a reminder, the golden camera rewards the best first film from the official selection, the critics’ week and the directors’ fortnight. Over the years it has highlighted directors from very different backgrounds and countries. For the 2021 edition, the Croatian film “Murina” by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović has been awarded.

“In a remote village in Costa Rica, Clara (played by Wendy Chinchilla), a withdrawn 40-year-old woman, experiences a sexual and mystical awakening as she begins a journey to free herself from the repressive religious and social conventions which have dominated her life.” Clara is a special 40-year-old woman, she seems to be more at ease with animals and nature than with other men. Yuca, her horse, seems to be more important than anything else to her, she has a very strong relationship with him. Because of this, she seems to be maladjusted to society. At 40 years old, she lives with her mother Fresia (played by Flor Vargas) and her niece Maria (played by Ana Julia Porras). 

Since an alleged encounter with the Virgin Mary, Clara is seen by the villagers as a link to God and therefore able to cure illness and pain. In spite of her age, her mother still has an almost total hold on her, preventing her from having access to her own body, she is sexually and intellectually totally under control. This domination also prevents her from curing herself through medicine, which would be contrary to the will of God. On the other hand, her niece Maria, seems to be much more free. This seems to gradually upset Clara’s perception of the world. With the arrival of Santiago (played by Daniel Castaneda), who is going to establish a relationship with Maria, Clara seems to be progressively invaded by a feeling that is part of the seven deadly sins, envy. 

The photography of the Swedish Sophie Winsvist gives to “Clara Sola” a very poetic dimension, almost magical, through superb sequences of nature. Sequences of nature in which Wendy Chinchilla seems very comfortable and gives us a really convincing performance. Wendy Chinchilla is perfect in this complex role to interpret, the character can quickly bore or even annoy the viewer.   However, the film suffers from a slight lack of rhythm in some sequences, but this is not enough to lower the overall quality of the film, which remains very interesting. 

Through her film, Nathalie Àlvarez Mesén, along with Maria Camila Arias at the writing, tries to denounce the influence of the religion which is still too oppressive in some Costa Rican places. Through superb visuals, this resolutely feminist film is a real success. 

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