The Bad Truth @ Montreal World Film Festival

Whenever I see a film with a young actor in it I’m am often blown away by their talent.  To be able at such a young age to interpret and communicate emotions that are not your own is a difficult thing even for an adult.  Many young actors have talent way beyond their years.  Young Ailen Guerrero falls into that category.  She is able to translate the sadness, fear and hope of her character without allowing it to become to maudlin or over-the-top.  Some adult actresses could stand to take some lessons from her.

Living with her mother (Analia Couceyro) and her grandfather (Alberto de Mendoza), 10-year-old Barbara (Ailen Guerrero) spends much of her time searching for her father and planning to escape by raft with her best friend, Matias (Conrad Valenzuela).  Having been told that her father, an author, died when she was young, Barbara tries to still find him by tearing authors’ pictures off the back of books in her grandfather’s book store that her mother runs.  She hides those back covers in a trunk in her bedroom.  This is not the saddest thing about Barbara as she seems to have no control of her bladder and when stressed pees herself.

After an occasion when this happens in class she is sent by her teacher to see the school psychologist, Sara (Malena Solda).  After having Barbara draw pictures in which her grandfather and her own face gradually disappear from the series, Sara is sure that what is wrong with the young girl is not physical, but mental/emotional.  There is something going on in Barbara’s house behind closed doors.  It seems though that Sara is the only one who wants to bring it out into the open.

The film is all about atmosphere, which is at the same time dark and suffocating.  Dark in that you know something is happening, but you are never shown directly what.  Everything is alluded to through the characters’ behaviour and the sad look on a child’s face.   The rooms are dark and even the casts’ clothing is muted except for the young psychologist’s.  Suffocating in that the grandfather is always there and dominates his scenes very quietly.  Never yelling or even raising his voice (except once with the psychologist) he intimidates everyone, including his own daughter and brother, with his forceful nature.  He knows exactly what to say to everyone to put them on the defensive.  Including the viewer.

Family relations are shown to be complex, often filled with secrets and lies.  Child abuse, the effect on the young one and the family and its horror are looked at from many different points of view.  We begin to understand that this family feels there is no solution for their situation.  They have unconsciously agreed to all cover it with silence and denial.

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