Film Review: Clara Sola

The idea of a religious ‘conduit’ has persevered for thousands of years and can be traced back to the time of prophets. Whether this manifests itself in the figure of a ‘holy fool’ or ‘pure vessel’ depends very much of the time and place. While these ‘messengers’ may claim to be the mouthpieces of a god, they’re almost always proved to be fake. Even when miracles are attributed to them. It’s easy to manipulate the truth and exploit circumstance. As is the case in Clara Sola.

Clara (Wendy Chinchilla Araya) lives in a remote village in Costa Rica. The community is highly superstitious and religious, none more so than her devout mother (Flor María Vargas Chavez) who runs a tight ship. Clara finds solace in the natural world around her, especially in her affinity with animals. Also, in the love of her spirited niece Maria (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza) who is approaching womanhood. This transition awakens something in her taciturn aunt.

Clara Sola immerses itself within its natural environment, creating a fascinating and enthralling character drama. Araya delivers a wonderfully physical performance. The dancer brings a serpentine litheness to the screen. Every movement and look is laced with intent. Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s film is a quiet and studied affair. One which often simmers. Clara Sola is a thoughtful and slippery beast. A poetic tale of repression and abuse.

Clara Sola opens in IFC Centre, NYC on 1 July and Landmark Westwood, LA on 8 July.

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