Lucia, Lucia (2003, Mexica, Antonio Serrano) AKA Another Tequila Sunrise
Lucia (Cecilia Roth) is an author of children’s books, struggling with boredom, unhappiness and routine in her life and marriage, who only realizes this once her hubby is kidnapped in an airport as they are about to depart on their holiday getaway together. With the help of a friendly neighbour named Felix (Carlos Álvarez-Novoa) and one-time Castro devotee, as well as the companionship of Adrian, an attractive young man (Kuno Becker), who is clearly smitten with the older, beautiful Lucia, the three amigos try to unravel the many mysteries of both her hubby’s shady past and the plot to abduct him. Once they get their footing, the chase is on.
Only, as Lucia is happy to remind us, she is the auteur of this tale, and much of what she says we must take with the proverbial grain of salt. Within minutes of the film’s start, she is revising her text, changing her hair colour and living space (among other things), so that we are kept constantly on edge and off-balance, uncertain of what’s real and what’s Lucia’s fancy. Contributing to this vertiginous feel are the film’s jittery staccato editing rhythms that include a number of jump edits that are meant, I suppose, to remind us of the films of the French New Wave, though there is little in Lucia, Lucia that is otherwise reminiscent of La Nouvelle Vague.
Roth (All About My Mother) is a terrific choice for the title role, as her warmth and intelligence guarantee audience allegiance, even when she’s pulling the narrative rug out from beneath our feet, and even though her story doesn’t, in the end, amount to much. And while the good-looking Becker is something of a non-entity as an actor, the affectionate almost-love affair between the older woman and younger man is developed nicely with touching and subtle moment, as when they take each other’s hand when feeling nervous. The real chemistry in the film is with the white-bearded Álvarez-Novoa, and it is a shame that the film doesn’t find more interesting things for these characters to do. The film’s early promise, built on these performances and Mexican director Antonio Serrano’s sometimes interesting visual style, dissipates after the story’s mid-point is reached, and the mystery of the kidnapping becomes of increasing disinterest. While there is some appealing material to be found here in the life of a maritally-disaffected but professionally-creative middle-aged woman, Serrano does not seem to have the willingness to really get to the heart of the matter, at either a personal or broader social level, and allow Lucia to really let her narrative instincts rip.
On the whole, Lucia, Lucia is a playful, though not strikingly original, engagement of the whole question of the unreliable narrator, as well as a fluffy study of the contrast between wish-fulfilling fiction and cold, hard reality. This film is not in the same darkly riveting vein as David Lynch’s nightmarish Mulholland Dr., a film that treats similar ideas in a much more thoroughly unforgettable style, Lucia is content to tease us rather than torment or haunt us. Unlike Lynch’s film, where the narrative discrepancies are vital to understanding what has become of the story’s protagonist, in Serrano’s film, it is used mostly as a gimmick to mess with the audience’s head and leave the questions of Lucia’s credibility ever-hanging. Lucia, Lucia plays a cute game of "Is she or isn’t she?" but it all seems to amount to not much of all. The end result is a film that is stylistically pleasing, but, because it toys with its ideas on a rather superficial level, ultimately not entirely fulfilling.