Cine Las Americas 2022: CLARA SOLA

Wendy Chinchilla Araya is a first-time film actress in the title role of the feature film Clara Sola from director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén. Araya gives a marvelous portrayal of a 40-year-old woman with physical challenges due to a back condition. She appears to be intellectually challenged as well, but that could be questioned given the circumstances she has been raised in. She lives in a Costa Rican village with her mother, Fresia (Flor María Vargas Chaves), and her teenage niece, Maria (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza). Clara has an otherworldly demeanor and is very connected to nature and animals, especially the family’s white horse, Yuca. She loves the earth, and the insects upon it, treating each gently and she speaks to them. She is seen using her might to bring a favorite insect back to life.

Her mother Fresia has claimed that Clara has had an encounter with the Virgin Mary and is blessed with healing powers, thus is known as a healer within the village and area. The sick and those in despair seek Clara — and the mother mediates the rituals after dressing her up and using her as a model of purity. It becomes evident that Clara is not comfortable with this role with the visitors as the days wear on. For all the protection the mother displays, she is also an oppressor. In one scene, Fresia refuses Clara have a surgery for the spinal problem she has. Fresia doesn’t want Clara to pleasure herself, so she rubs Clara’s fingers in chilies. Those scenes are hard to watch, but Clara believes she is free to do what she wants.

Watching novellas on television with her mother, Clara sees what transpires between a man and woman in love scenes. When a handsome horse-wrangler sets foot on their property, Santiago (Daniel Castañeda Rincón) and sees how he treats Yuca, Clara finds herself yearning for something different than what she has lived under her mother’s command. Her niece María will soon have her quinceañera and is not shy about pursuing Santiago herself. He is respectful and sweet with Clara, so their bond grows, but not in the same way as he does with the teen. Cue in the drama, but this does not overpower the core story about Clara’s special, empathic connection to nature and animals. Sophie Winqvist Loggins’s camerawork when Araya is in the forest or by the river are lush and beautifully shot.

The performances by Araya’s fellow cast members successfully portray the array of characters in Clara’s world and what she experiences in the screenplay by Mesén and Maria Camila Arias.

The film was first released at the Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight), July 2021 and subsequently to many film festivals up to the Cine las Americas International Film Festival in Austin, TX last month. The North American theatrical release of this film begins July 1, 2022, at the IFC Center in New York City and Friday, July 8th at the Landmark Westwood in Los Angeles, then expanding beyond those dates.

Spanish dialogue with subtitles and is 1 hour and 46 minutes

Source: Oscilloscope Laboratories

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