Without Prescription (Receta No Includa) Image

SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Director Juliana Maite’s effective drama, Without Prescription, deals with mental illness during the most strenuous season of the year. It’s Christmas Eve in Puerto Rico and troubled Olivia (Marietere Velez) is trying to survive the holiday party her mother, Maite (Carola Garcia) is throwing. Olivia has OCD and is compulsively driven to spit constantly. She also feels like she has to brush her teeth all the time. When she gives in and brushes her teeth in the bathroom at the party, she starts feeling like she should pull a tooth out.

Olivia knows this isn’t right but doesn’t have insurance to have the medication she needs prescribed by a doctor. Her family is worried, especially since she previously overdosed and had been institutionalized. Olivia’s friend Jessica (Mariana Monclova), who she met in the institute, let’s her know the guy she is seeing, David (Gabriel Leyva), can get her psychiatric drugs under the table as his dad owns a pharmacy. She goes to see him, and David takes Olivia outside and lets her know he can sell her the $15 worth of pills she needs for $50. Olivia says that is too much but goes back to her mother at the holiday party to beg for the money. Her mom declines, but then David calls to let her know he will sell the pills for $15 and to meet him at his place.

Olivia and Jessica go to David’s, but he isn’t happy to see Jessica at all. Turns out David had asked Jessica to stay away and their relationship was more transactional over drugs than romantic. David makes Jessica leave but Olivia stays and gets caught in a Christmas downpour, stranding her at David’s house. As it thunders outside, the two discover a lot of secrets about each other, including David’s true motivations behind his black market medication operation.

“…David can get her psychiatric drugs under the table…”

The screenplay by Velez is one of the most accurate representations of mental illness I have seen. Too often mental disorders are oversimplified for the cinema audience, like in A Beautiful Mind or The Silver Linings Playbook. In Without Prescription, mental problems are complicated, burdensome and cannot be resolved with a dance contest. The screenwriter shows the quandary of navigating the personal maze of anguish that is invisible to society. Velez produces an excellent character drama that doesn’t resort to fabricated plot gimmicks. The pace keeps up with no drag.

Director Maite uses some very clever sound effects to show Olivia’s OCD as a hissing whisper egging her on. It is reminiscent of how Cronenberg used sound in Scanners and an excellent tool for lower budget projects. The sound effects also do an excellent job of maintaining the Christmas rainstorm in the second and third acts as opposed to elaborate sprinklers.

On top of all that, the acting is excellent. Velez performs her script as good as she wrote it, I believed her every second. Leyva’s work really stands out, as he fully activates all the dimensions Velez put into the character. He keeps the surprises coming in his performance.

Without Prescription is an untypical Christmas movie that is refreshingly saccharine free. I loved the imagery and Puerto Rican Christmas carols, which make it another unique feature for your holiday viewing. This is an insightful drama with great performances and wildfire of talent on display. Be sure to score yourself a viewing first chance you get.

Without Presciption screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

Without Prescription (Receta No Includa) (2022)

Directed: Juliana Maite

Written: Marietere Velez

Starring: Marietere Velez, Mariana Monclova, Carola Garcia, Gabriel Leyva, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Without Prescription (Receta No Includa) Image

"…great performances and wildfire of talent on display."

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