Veronica

2017 | Unrated (R equivalent for nudity and sexuality) | starring Olga Segura, Arcelia Ramirez | directed by Carlos Algara, Alejandro Martinez-Beltran | 1hr 21mins | In Spanish with Subtitles |

2017 Halloween Horrorfest #9

I really enjoy writing about these low budget or foreign film streaming movies. These are the cases where a film review is the most useful in it’s purist form. These aren’t movies that the general public has already been inundated with plot-revealing trailers for and a hundred thousand other people online have weighted in on already. They just drop. So the question gets far more basic, what the heck is Veronica?

A psychologist (Arcelia Ramirez) living in a remote house in the woods agrees to take in a troubled young patient, the titular Veronica (Olga Segura) who was referred to her after the previous psychologist disappeared. The psychologist invites her into her home and starts probing the mystery girl with psychologisty-type questions to get her to open up. She also unwisely starts blurring the lines between patient and doctor and lets Veronica into her life, introducing her to her hobbies and… oh yeah, lies awake at night listening to Veronica masturbate to abuse dreams on the other side of the wall. The movie teases out a few threads, what happened to Veronica’s previous doctor? Is there a twisted obsession brewing between these two?

The film is shot in black and white and sticks pretty closely to a minimalist, single-location, 2-person show from start to finish with the occasional explanatory flashback that feels organic, not trapdoors out of the confined cinema experience. It’s short but leisurely paced, however it started to lose me the more it bent toward psycho-sexual Fatal Attraction territory. A great thriller puts it’s characters in scenarios that feel overwhelming and out of control. The psycho-sexual thriller where one person is inescapably attracted or drawn to another one with dangerous consequences… not my jam. These stories feel entirely voluntary and easily solvable to me. The more likely your central issue is resolved by simply grabbing the main character and shaking sense into them the less over-whelming and frankly relatable it all is. It involves characters passively removing from their own agency, the frustrating inverse of a traditional arc where a character confidently finds their strength.

Oh but all might not be what we seem. There is an ending here. A creative spike in the third act that pays off, makes sense and is pretty compelling. The turn it also takes has been done before. A lot. A whole hell of a lot. So much since the turn of the century that it’s an often parodied cliché at this point. Veronica delivers this turn very well, with skill and played straight. It isn’t quite clear if the movie thinks it’s making a probing character drama, as so much of the film’s focus on untangling a history of childhood abuse would indicate, or if it’s going for wacky cinematic tricks. Either way, as it winds up it gets more absurd in a fun way that undercuts a lot of what came before. I’m a sucker for this type of scene reveal, but we’ve been here before.

Veronica is a reasonably well made, very well acted and technically fine film that ultimately delivers a story that we have seen so many times at this point that it requires a take more inventive than what this movie has up it’s sleeve. Still there is talent here in front and behind the camera. Directors Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran are two to watch out for. Veronica might end up on a film completionists’s must-see list after these guys break out and make something really great.

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