The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - CLARA SOLA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - CLARA SOLA

clara sola review
In a remote Costa Rican village, a middle-aged woman experiences a late sexual awakening.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Nathalie Alvarez Mesen

Starring: Wendy Chinchilla Araya, Ana Julia Porras Espinoza, Daniel Castañeda Rincón, Flor María Vargas Chavez, Laura Román Arguedas

clara sola poster

We first meet the eponymous heroine of Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s (co-written by Maria Camila Arias) debut Clara Sola attempting to coax along a handsome white steed by the name of Yuca. Clara (Wendy Chinchilla Araya) uses her hands to attract the horse, who shyly, eventually acquiesces to her beckoning. The opening sequence is instructive: throughout the film, Clara’s hands are a leitmotif, used in loving close up for a variety of purposes. Chiefly, in the remote Costa Rican village where she lives with her family, the middle-aged Clara is regarded as a soothsayer whose touch can heal others. Clara is also tactile; she plunges her hands into the mud of the surrounding forests to feel its fecund loam, she strokes her beloved horse and gently plays with various insects. And, most pertinently, Clara uses her hands on her own body, plunging them into her knickers to stroke and play with herself (not so gently, though). To quote that old Woody Allen line, don’t knock masturbation...

clara sola review

Except Clara’s mum isn’t so accepting as the disgraced octogenarian filmmaker. She chastises Clara for her habits, to the extent of pasting chilli oil on her fingers to curb her onanistic enthusiasm. She also refuses the doctor’s recommendation of an operation to cure the worsening curvature of the spine which Clara is suffering, citing some spurious nonsense about it not being God’s will. Thing is, if Clara does get the medical operation then what would that do to the Sola brand? Mum touts her daughter as a proto-saint due to her apparently witnessing the Virgin Mary as a girl, and people journey from miles around to now witness Clara, happily paying for the privilege. Furthermore, if Clara did receive surgery then perhaps that would mean independence for her, which wouldn’t suit mum either. She has kept her daughter in a state of arrested development, resulting in Clara being something of a woman-child. Her commandeered lifestyle is neatly symbolised when we witness her forced into a corset by her mother and other family members - she is restricted, both physically and spiritually.

clara sola review

However, something begins stirring in Clara. The two women share a house with Maria (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza), Clara’s 15-year-old niece. In the full flush of puberty, Maria is a riot of hormones, and has a sort-of relationship with the handsome ostler (Santiago - Daniel Castañeda Rincón) who hires out Yuca to tourists. As Maria and Santiago steal kisses (and sometimes even more - eek!), Clara sneaks peaks with erotic wonder. Sex, the promise of it and the freedom it entails, is in the air. Turns out that Santiago is a bit of a player, and soon he’s sniffing around Clara, too (can we blame him? Throughout the film, Araya’s astonishing beauty sneaks up on us, until we are utterly under its spell). He’s the sort of creep that tells women how much prettier they look without make-up, etc, but maybe his attention could be the final tip towards the emancipation, both sexually and socially, which Clara needs...

clara sola review

Araya’s background is as a dancer, which is perhaps why we are magnetised by her every movement and each expression which passes her infinitely fascinating face: she rules the screen with her presence. DoP Sophie Winqvist’s poetic camera pores over the actor as the plot takes interesting and surprising turns. Just like Clara’s relationship with the world around her - palliative, uplifting - Mesén’s work with the actor is pure alchemy, creating a narrative which engages and invigorates. In the same way that Maria’s vivication relates to Clara’s re-awakening, we too are invited to consider the energies which govern our lives, our urges and the need to make sense of them. Clara Sola uses the fertile hinterland of its rural setting, and the raw performances of its untrained actors, to create a film of pure pagan power. Imperative to her self-actualisation, despite the magic which Clara may or may not be able to enact on her peers and the unknowable forces which facilitate the natural world, is the vital thaumaturgy which Clara performs upon herself. A rich, exciting and original film: in Clara Sola, wanking has never seemed so urgently and gorgeously liberating.

Clara Sola is in UK cinemas and on VOD from November 18th.

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