Clara Sola is a coming of age story that also focuses on the bonds between women. Clara (Wendy Chinchilla Araya) is a forty year old woman whose live is controlled by her mother Fresia (Flor Maria Vargas Chavez). Her religious mother has so much control that she prevents her daughter for getting the spinal surgery that would remove so much pain from Clara’s life Their lives, along with the life of teenaged niece Maria (Laura Román Arguedas) changes with the arrival of a tour guide named Santiago (Daniel Castañeda Rincón).
The film is powered by a sexual tension that goes beyond the sensual. Due to Fresia’s insistence on keeping her daughter pure (she rubs her fingers in hot chilis to discourage masturbating), Clara’s sexual maturation has been stunted. She is turned on by many things and watches as Santiago and her niece steal kisses whenever they have a chance.
But, there is a wonderment to it all. Clara Sola is about a sexual awakening that is filled with youthful curiosity. Clara does not know what she wants – she has never been allowed to have anything – so every decision is tentative, yet filled with purpose. In her feature debut, Araya does an excellent job of conveying the many emotions of the lead character. Though she has lived her life under her mother’s thumb, there is a confidence about her. Clara is filled with contradictions, making her very relatable.
Her connection to the natural world is a running theme throughout the film. Her best friend is a horse named Yuca. By no coincidence, the horse is the only thing that actually listens to her. While others are not as domineering as Fresia, they still hold Clara on a different level due to a gift she has that was supposedly bestowed upon her by the Virgin Mary. The camera does an excellent job of highlighting the relationship that Clara has with the fauna on the farm she lives. There is a mystical quality that never crosses over into the fantastic.
Clara Sola manages to effectively cover a variety of topics through its main character. Religion, misogyny, and sexism are all a part of the story being told. These can be difficult subjects to tackle, but due to the beautiful setting and deft writing, it comes of as a delicate tale of growth. There are many opportunities to move in a more chaotic direction, but writer-director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén offers up a grounded story that can be frustrating, but also leaves room for hope.
Clara Sola comes to the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles July 8
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