There’s a touch of magical realism in this intriguing Costa Rican drama by first-time director Nathalie Alvarez Mesen.
The central figure is Clara, a 40-year-old virgin (Wendy Chinchilla Araya) with the simplicity of a child, a deep affinity with the natural world and the reputation of a healer blessed by the Virgin Mary.
The location is a remote village in Costa Rica, surrounded by ancient forests, evocatively filmed by cinematographer Sophie Winqvist Loggins.
Clara lives with her pious mother Fresia (Flor Maria Vargas Chaves), who wants to keep her obedient and unchanged, and her cheerful teenage niece Maria (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza)
When Fresia is told there is a simple and free operation which can cure her daughter’s painful twisted spine, she rejects it. “ God gave her to me like this. She stays like this,” she tells the doctor.
The family seems to have two main sources of income: money and gifts paid by the superstitious people who turn up to be healed by Clara; and the beautiful white horse Yuca, who is rented out to local tour guides.
Clara has a special affinity with Yuca, and she is outraged when she hears her mother is planning to sell the horse to raise money for a grand party to celebrate Maria’s important 15th birthday. She drives Yuca away into the jungle.
Clara’s latent sexual feelings are stirred when handsome young farmhand Santiago (Daniel Castenada Rincon) arrives on the scene and she secretly watches as he and Maria are making love.
Santiago is charmed by Clara’s unusual character and they bond over a mutual love of nature but she wants more.
In an intense climax there is a sudden earthquake, the birthday celebrations collapse in chaos, a white horse is found dead by the river and Clara explodes in anger.
This is a slow-paced and powerful story of a repressed woman breaking away from the conventions which have dominated her life. Wendy Chinchilla Araya, a Costa Rican dancer in her first film role, is riveting in the role of Clara.
The screenplay was written by director Mesen and Maria Camila Arias.
Clara Sola, part of the Lotterywest Film Festival, will show at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium from Monday, February 28, to Sunday, March 6.
Watch the trailer…