La Verónica


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

La Veronica
"The writer/director deploys a deft amount of black humour but there's always a disturbing edge to the mood." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Verónica lies at the centre of her world, a model and football WAG who carefully stage manages her life with selfies in mind. Leonardo Medel reflects this mindset with his film, with cinematographer Pedro Garcia permanently keeping Verónica (Mariana Di Girólamo)  front and centre for the entire running time - the world might not revolve around her but she treats it as though it does. Nothing is more important to her than "putting on a scene", whether that means directing the exact moment for her model buddy to slap on the sunscreen or more sinister manipulations of her husband Javier (Ariel Mateluna).

Even her newborn baby Amanda plays second fiddle to her moods and it fills her with consternation that Javier will not let her be pictured with the child for her fans. Verónica happily tries on one persona after the other - whether it's giving the camera her best "vacuous look" or turning on the waterworks for her husband's benefit. Her main goal, however, is to gain Instagram followers so that she can become the next face of Beaut lipstick - and it turns out she might be prepared to go to great lengths to achieve it.

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Medel's film is slippery, he keeps us guessing about Verónica. She's being followed by a biographer (Patricia Rivadeneira) and, we learn in fragments, also getting attention she would rather not have from the police force. "I've always liked kids," is one of her mantras, but does she really see her own child as some sort of rival for attention or is she suffering from postpartum depression that's going unnoticed by everyone around her as the baby cries on? This is the sort of narcissism explored by the likes of Gus Van Sant's To Die For given a modern, selfie-centric framing - and those who caught the film at Tallinn, where it shared the Rebels With A Cause award with Dinner In America, could see a similar device being employed in Russian film In The Mirror, although there it is played more for laughs.

Medel's clever conceit is helped enormously by the casting of Di Girólamo in the lead. She already proved what a chameleon she could be in Pablo Larrain's Ema, a woman trying on 'life roles' for size, and here she again slides effortlessly between moods and personas, so that  we're never quite sure what lies beneath. The writer/director deploys a deft amount of black humour but there's always a disturbing edge to the mood - after all, nobody likes to hear a baby cry unchecked - that only grows as the film progresses. Although the fragmented nature of the narrative occasionally makes it tricky to follow, Verónica's constant power play and angling remains compelling to the last.

Reviewed on: 08 Dec 2020
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La Verónica packshot
Model and football WAG Veronica lives her life on social media... and she'll stop at nothing to become the face of a new lipstick.

Director: Leonardo Medel

Writer: Leonardo Medel

Starring: Mariana Di Girólamo, Antonia Giesen, Ariel Mateluna, Josefina Montané, Patricia Rivadeneira, Willy Semler

Year: 2020

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Chile

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In The Mirror