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Algunas Chicas | 2013 Venice Film Festival Review

Regress & Repress: Palavecino’s Woman on the Verge of Sustaining Interest

Algunas Chicas Poster Venice Film FestivalA young girl crying alone in a room opens Argentinean director Santiago Palavecino’s latest feature, Algunas Chicas (Some Girls), which turns out to be a recurring motif in a film exploring distressed female psyches and the ebb and flow toward nervous breakdowns. At first exuding the promising glow of a psychological thriller with its foreboding flawed female protagonist, the film evolves into a case study of an unbalanced mind as out of control actions and surprising details surface in the less charismatic second half of the film. Consistently dark and exceptionally photographed, Palavecino’s themes and locale may recall Lucretia Martel but isn’t quite in the same league as interest and narrative cohesion aren’t sustained.

Celina (Cecilia Rainero) is a successful surgeon that mysteriously decides to visit old college buddy Delfina (Augustina Liendo) at her rural home. Celina’s reserved demeanor soon reveals that she may have recently separated from her husband and the trip to see Delfina may have been motivated as an escape from him. Delfina, who lives with her partner Sergio (Alan Pauls), is happy to see her old friend, however, there’s trouble in her home as well, as step daughter Paula (Agostina Lopez) seems to have either locked herself in her room indefinitely or maybe even has disappeared.

As Celina retreats to the isolation of the woods to sob uncontrollably or take long walks, she stumbles into Paula’s friend Nene (Alin Salas), a strange mystic who requests that Celina deliver a cell phone to the locked up Paula. Not long afterwards, Paula reveals herself to Celina, and the two unhappy souls seem to bond almost immediately. Paula confides that she recently attempted suicide, which her friends are unaware of. Soon, Celina is part of Paula’s group, which also includes wealthy heiress Maria (Augustina Munoz). Sex, drugs, and hunting soon becomes the mainstays of their days, though when left to her own devices, Celina seems as erratic as ever, even she takes Paula under her wing to live in the nearby town. But it’s not long before a remnant from Celina’s past life resurfaces, revealing that Celina may have more issues than we may have guessed.

There’s a deliciously offbeat setup to the opening setup of Algunas Chicas, replete with all the earmarks of an unsettling thriller focused on unsound minds locked away. But as soon as troubled Celina meets troubled Paula Chicas really becomes the film its title implies, a vaguely detailed portrait of a group of unremarkable and somewhat immature young females joined by a depressed and suicidal woman in an acute state of regression. Coke binges, swimming pool parties and Celina’s ménage a trois with one of Paula’s friends and a local young man repetitively point to her futile attempts to escape from her own pressing issues. Nene’s mystical powers involving the ability to see Paula’s dreams cascade into arresting visual reenactments and lend the material some much needed energy, but unfortunately the film settles into a unwieldy knot of banal happenings, drained of any power because Celina and her women aren’t the fully developed characters they should be.

Reviewed on August 30 at the 2013 Venice Film Festival.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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