Mariana Di Girolamo is in the centre of every frame in Leonardo Medel’s stylish, unsettling and completely absorbing look at artifice and narcissism.
Verónica (Di Girolamo) has recently returned to her homeland of Chile with her wealthy, footballer husband Javier (Ariel Mataluna). They have a baby, Amanda, whose constant crying is an irritation, not a call to maternity, for the impassive Verónica. Her priority is landing the role of ‘face’ of Beaut lipstick and, with only 1.1 million social media followers, she is short of the 2 million she needs to edge out the other celebrity mothers.
Facing straight to camera and in the centre of every frame, we move through 53 scenes that reveal, layer by layer, the reality of who Verónica is. Characters move in an out of frame; Javier doting on Amanda and unable to stand up to his wife’s demands, sycophants Moni and Roberta giving ‘vacuous face’ at her command, and servants Ester and Julita, unable to refuse her. We see what no one else does, that Verónica is a monster and a master manipulator.
It’s a brave conceit, to have a static camera and a single point of view but it works, in no small part due to the memerising expressiveness of Di Girolamo’s face. Even when she is hiding her emotions, it’s like we can read her mind. Medel fills out the frame with sound – the crying of Amanda is such a constant that you can feel Verónica’s suppressed rage – and with the edges of people and actions. We understand what is happening without needing to see.
There is an inevitability to where the narrative goes although the resolution was not what I expected. I found myself unable to look away, caught in the dazzling awfulness of Verónica.
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