La Verónica (MIFF Play) – movie review

La Verónica centres on social media star and footballer’s wife Verónica (Mariana Di Girólamo). Her persistent efforts to procure a sponsorship deal could be derailed by re-surfaced murder charges concerning an infant.

Director Leonardo Medel frames the entire film in medium close-up with Verónica’s face in the centre. This conceit hinges on the idea that her life is seen through the prism of her social media presence, as well as Veronica being self-obsessed to a possibly infanticidal degree. This unique approach may be conceptually interesting but finds many narrative pitfalls along the way. Vignettes with revolving characters reveal the morally compromised layers of Verónica as she adopts a different personality for every occasion.

Veronica is on the cusp of becoming the face of Beaut Lipstick. That deal could catapult her career and give her purpose. However, she’s short of the 2 million followers prerequisite. So she ramps up her social media presence through videos and modelling shoots, all at the expense of her family.

The film is carried through the highly-expressive performance of Girólamo. The character flicks a switch between being emotionally distraught with her husband, to her “vacuous look” for photoshoots. Her real persona in private moments casts her in an unflattering light, as she resents her housekeeper for showing compassion for the baby. In one of few moments Veronica actually holds her baby, the baby cries hysterically because Veronica pumps synth music to a deafening volume. When the housekeeper turns it down and takes the baby away, Veronica’s attitude that “sometimes babies need to be smacked up to stop fussing” left the audience utterly unsympathetic, but still transfixed by how easily Veronica changes personality.

In this way, the film could act as a striking companion piece to the earlier 2020 film starring Girólama, Ema. Both films share remarkably similar themes of a young mother liberating herself from the manacles of motherhood by living her own independent lifestyle. While Veronica is conspicuously contemptuous of her child, and therefore less likeable, the actor plays each of them with a spirited – and admirably ambitious – purpose.

The only time Verónica shows any semblance of sympathy is when she is at a photoshoot with a burn victim Ignacia. In her brief exchange with Ignacia, Veronica appears to have genuine warmth toward her. However, this could be a red herring considering in the previous scene Veronica is coy with her biographer about potentially becoming an actress.

La Verónica perhaps speaks more to the brilliant acting of Mariana di Girólamo than the quality of writing. This fascinating character study however stunts its intriguing plot points at the expense of a creative technique, so it only limps through its run-time.

La Verónica is available now on MIFF Play as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival

Patrick Scott

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