#MUFFApproved TIFF 2017: Verónica
Haunted by the girl in the mirror
Dir. Paco Plaza
Starring: Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer, Consuelo Trujillo, Ana Torrent, Ángela Fabián, Carla Campra
Séances and spirits mixed with puberty pains? I’m in! Verónica is a fantastic combination of all my favourite things in one film: occult practices, religious iconography, a true crime story, and teen struggles.
Verónica (Sandra Escacena) is caring, sweet, and funny, and what I love about her is that she isn’t presented as a Mary Sue or social martyr. (She’s a little overworked for a 15 year old — taking care of her three younger siblings to accommodate her mother’s work schedule — but it isn’t to an extreme.) Escacena play the titular character so honestly that it’s amazing to think this is her first film. The awkwardness of being a teenager isn’t minimized or dramatized. It’s perfectly in the middle and the portrayal is so genuine.
What was also great was how the setting of the Catholic girls school didn’t lead to religious defamation. The nuns are not evil or authoritative, they’re just women who teach children. Hermana Muerte (Sister Death), played by Consuelo Trujillo, is an eerie presence, but still tries to help Verónica and has a wicked sense of humor.
The female centric relationships (the only named male character is Verónica’s adorable bother, Antoñito) are nature and real. Verónica’s friendship with Rosa (Ángela Fabián) looks and feels just like my friendships at her age — the connection is deep but fragile due to her own insecurities. There’s a relatable hesitancy when Rosa befriends Diana (Carla Campra) without Verónica knowledge. Even though Rosa was being nice to Diana, it felt like a betrayal of trust to Verónica.
The men featured in the movie act as a lurking existence in a young girl’s life. The demonic haunting of Verónica and her starting puberty happen at the same time, and the ogling looks she receives is like an omen of her demise… Which I get — I definitely felt possessed when I started puberty, and being stared at didn’t help.
Verónica is a fictionalized, multilayered exploration of a supernatural, true event. What if the start of adulthood was the first step in a young girl’s corruption? What if the vultures, waiting to pick at her corpse, was the average man on the street? If you want to be scared (again) by the endeavors of adolescence, with the extra bonus of a terrorizing spiritual encounter, this is the movie for you!
Verónica is playing on Sunday, September 17th at 6:45pm. You can purchase tickets on the TIFF website.