Monica Del Carmen plays the plain and lonely Laura with understated honesty; a naturalism that compliments the static, unobtrusive framing and the absence of score. In scenes in which she carries the film alone, it’s matter-of-fact enough to feel intimate and often, voyeuristic; a series of naked vignettes in which she lies about her happiness and her social life to her mother during concerned phone calls, engages in longing stares and clitoral stimulation at the middle class couple across the way and joyless fucking with a nameless clubber who hushes her as he calls his girlfriend afterwards.
The introduction of Arturo, a serial returnee for sex who displays increasingly violent and sado-masochistic tendencies, gradually embraced and taken further by Laura, complicates the narrative and the naturalism. There’s a point when the traditional protection afforded to the erect penis becomes intrusive and conspicuous in its cinematic artificiality. In a film that doesn’t turn away from a man urinating on a woman or coarsing her buttocks with a belt, it’s a curious double standard. Rowe, maybe conscious of this anomaly, does relax the self-censorship as the vigour and the violence of their sexual relationship increases, but stops short of showing ejaculation. I wondered why I was being suddenly treated with kid gloves in such an open and explicit context.
Nevertheless this is a satisfying psychosexual drama, even-handed in its criticism of both bucolic and metropolitan society. It’s in the final third that Rowe’s film shows its hand, alluding to the dark family history that prompted Laura to escape from her “hick town” to a run down, fly and cockroach infested city apartment. In the run up to the anniversary of her Father’s death on February 29th, there’s the strong suggestion that he may of raped her in childhood. Her self-loathing and increasingly violent fantasies seem more organic in light of this and the final act shock, the suggestion that Arturo should return on the 29th and slit her throat, ties the sexual degradation to something more sinister than power-relations and the need to stimulate deadened senses.Pages: 1 2 3