Director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s debut feature, Clara Sola, is a haunting yet beautiful film about expression and innate living that offers a great deal of introspection. At 40, Clara Sola (Wendy Chinchilla Araya) is having a sexual and human awakening, which poses responses from her family and others that create a turbulent but forgiving way of life. She has the gift to heal, which her mother, Fresia (Flor María Vargas Chaves), who is a devout Catholic, forces her to use on the townspeople. This causes them to believe in a higher power. With a spinal condition but the maturity of a young adult, Clara Sola is treated as a person with special needs by those around her, yet she is fully aware of what is happening.
However, Clara Sola’s more profound understanding of nature, animals, and the earth’s pulsating life allows for her own healing. Born with a spinal problem, her mother refuses an operation to correct it. So Clara Sola sets searches for answers, never straying from truths no matter the situation. Hidden away in a remote Costa Rican region of lush and verdant landscape, Clara Sola lives as a mystic whose existence is unfiltered except for the religious and societal pressures placed upon her. Only in nature, surrounded and covered by it, does she live freely.
Living in rural poverty with her mother and niece, Maria (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza), along with other female family members who are in and out of the house, Clara Sola moves as if in a trance where she is passed around and dressed. She is uncommitted to a daily routine except for spending time outdoors with the family’s horse, Yuca, who is her only refuge. So naturally, she is excited by sexual encounters. When a young man Santiago (Daniel Castañeda Rincón), comes for Yuca, she is even more intrigued, which throws her into a lossless realm without a place or purpose except within nature, literally covering herself in mud. In the end, Clara Sola’s actions grow to a breaking point of no return, which could well mean her rebirth, no matter how her mother and other family members feel about it.
“…Clara Sola lives as a mystic whose existence…[has] religious and societal pressures placed upon her.”
The lushness of Costa Rica is prevalent in Clara Sola, making it a beautiful and scenic film for an intense story about an unusual woman. The cinematography grabs the audience’s attention with its vibrant colors. It also enhances the protagonist’s feelings in any given scene, especially as Clara Sola discovers her true self more and more. The precise editing heightens the emotional arc as well.
The acting is also poetic and carefully planned, whereas less is more, especially in conversation. Nathalie Álvarez Mesén provides an alternative universe and never breaks her stride in owning Clara Sola’s place in her small world where, in the end, nothing matters except that nature continues to be with or without anyone there. So naturally, Clara Sola prefers to be there. Flor María Vargas Chaves is just as good as the domineering mom, as she projects a misguided love for her on-screen daughter.
Considered the Costa Rican, Carrie, this highly intense film answers to a higher calling even though the drama is considerable. Clara Sola is an intriguing film ripe with symbolism and strong performances.
"…this highly intense film answers to a higher calling..."