This is masterful storytelling by Mexican writer-director Michel Franco, showing the insidious damage an oppressive relationship can create.
Valeria (Ana Valeria Becerril) is 17 and pregnant. Living with her lacklustre older sister Clara (Joanna Larequi), she avoids contact with their mother April (Emma Suárez). When April appears on their doorstep, she is accepting of Valeria’s situation and moves in to help out. Gradually we see signs that April’s helpfulness is subtly controlling and she is revelling in her role as saviour and mother. When baby Karen is born and Valeria struggles to cope, April calmly, deftly and devastatingly takes control.
Franco allows the story to build so slowly and delicately that you can’t help but be drawn into this family dynamic that superficially seems so normal. Suarez is perfectly cast as April, providing just the right amount of charisma and sociopathy to be believable. Our understanding of her life and motivations is subtly crafted, framed by her interactions with others, her naive business plans and her competitiveness with her daughters. There are some quietly powerful scenes – the one in the cafe, so beautifully underplayed, will stay with me.
Although this film is titled April’s Daughter, and Valeria definitely plays a key role, it is April who fascinates. With Valeria, we watch as she is stirred from her childhood and shows a resolve that is reminiscent, perhaps, of her mother. I was left wondering, after the final scene, whether it signified independence or that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.