Young adults living in the care of the state or religious institutions don’t need their lives to be any harder than they already are. The conditions with which they are living are challenging enough, and a consistent struggle against sexual and physical abuse compounds this misery. Said abuse happens at a higher rate than those living within a traditional family structure. Young women are particularly at risk for exploitation, and Chilean writer-director Fernando Guzzoni’s Blanquita (Chile’s submission to the Academy Awards) dives headfirst into this world of corruption and abuse.
Our guide through this world is Father Manuel (Alejandro Goic), a keeper of a shelter for kids who have nowhere else to turn. In his care is the titular Blanquita (Laura López), a fierce single mother and a young woman saddled with a past of sexual abuse that implicates the powers that be in the Chilean government. Also in Father Manuel’s care is a teenager with an intellectual disability with his own tales of abuse. Unfortunately, his psych evaluations make his testimony unreliable. This subsequently scares prosecutors from pursuing the case. This puts Father Manuel and Blanquita in a bind because they know the accusations to be true. Should Blanquita add to her own testimony so the guilty don’t walk free? When is a lie made up of little truths worth telling?
“Should Blanquita add to her own testimony so the guilty don’t walk free?”
This is the crux of the narrative. It’s quickly evident to Blanquita and Father Manuel that they are going to make some very powerful enemies as they push forward with the allegations. Unfortunately, this is the film’s sole focus, and at times it feels as if Guzzoni is struggling to keep the plot plodding along. We wait too long for the next shoe to drop, and the momentum isn’t sustained throughout the runtime. A tonal shift at points would have done wonders to propel Blanquita forward when it drags.
Still, Laura López is special and gives a nuanced performance one doesn’t normally see, especially from less experienced performers. This is her only credit on IMDb to date, and she’s a surprise find. Without her, I’m not sure we have much of a film. The other performers, especially Goic as Father Manuel, are more than capable, but they don’t bring the same fresh approach that we get from the newcomer. The rest of the cast doesn’t necessarily add that extra flair to their roles that the film might have benefited from. A character or situation that could have added varying degrees of variety would have provided much-needed balance for viewers.
It’s easy to see why Chile submitted Blanquita. It’s a stinging indictment of an unfair world that we’ve set up for future generations – not only for the youth in Chile but for children around the globe. Guzzoni, at times, drowns the film in its messaging by not mixing it up, but we’re never bored. We can thank López’ performance for that and our creeping sense of alarm at the abuses that the less fortunate are forced to suffer through.
"…López is special and gives a nuanced performance..."