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Sex And Lucia
cast: Paz Vega, Trist´┐Żn Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freire, and Elena Anaya

writer and director: Julio Medem

123 minutes (18) 2001
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region '0' retail
Also available to rent on video

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Some see Medem's last film Lovers Of The Arctic Circle (aka: Los Amantes Del Circulo Polar, 1999) as ending on a tragic note and this subsequent feature film as a countering of its effect, the director making it implicit among cast and crew this time out that howsoever the plot turns a happy ending must be met. But Ana's 'death' at the close of Los Amantes is established in a fade to white identical to that bringing in Otto's unconsciousness as a result of a skiing accident earlier in the film, proposing that Ana, too, is comatose and not necessarily irrecoverable. Sex And Lucia (aka: Lucia Y El Sexo) may also try to convince of a merry farewell but Medem lays on the feelings and the shocks so thick that they are not going to leave the viewer or storyline in time. A child has died horrifically off-screen, the hero is an admitted coward and now that secrets and misunderstandings are laid bare it still leaves the survivors with a relationship unworkable for at least one and the most tragically imposed would appear to be the one with the cruellest of continuing stories, her grief complete.
   Sex And Lucia casually cuts back and forwards with no overwhelming desire to bewilder his audience this time out with a story that turns back six years to the floating island of Formentera and a passionate coupling between the sexually high Elena (Najwa Nimri) and Lorenzo Alvarez (Tristán Ulloa, of Los Sin Nombre, 1999) from which she returns with child and deserting a husband to seek out the father on the few clues agreed to one another during their moonlit tryst. Lorenzo meanwhile is a successful author in search of a new novel and finding love with the beautiful Lucia (Paz Vega), a fan too fetching to be given the time to become a stalker. Any writer's block is gladly displaced for the sexual hi-jinx until his friend and agent, Pepe (Javier Cámara) brings him delicious facts that could and will form the basis of the next novel, the story of a woman who conceived a child on the night of his birthday six years earlier on the island. Lorenzo seeks out the child, Luna, but not the mother, worming his way closer and closer via the child's guardian, Belen Lozano (Elena Anaya), the teenage daughter of a recently retired porno actress, Manuela Lozano (Diana Suárez), whom live under the same roof as the child and mother. The moment that Lorenzo successfully conveys his paternal tendencies to the child are cursed by terrible tragedy that veers everyone concerned off in various mental and physical directions like so much shrapnel from an emotional explosion. The pieces take some picking up with the guilty and apparently suicidal Lorenzo pouring the stress on Lucia until a dour call from the police in a textbook preparation for the worst breaks news of his involvement in a car crash. Lucia takes herself off to Formentera where Elena has sought refuge also and set up a boarding house. The hidden histories are gradually fed from one woman to the other and the evidence of tragedy is allowed to mount though there are further surprises for both.
   Medem despatched Los Amantes Del Circulo Polar in a confessed state of exhaustion and it was the intended sabbatical on Formentera that scattered spores demanding of a plot. There is tiredness in the work but even a subdued Medem is several notches above most anything Western filmmakers can offer. The relaxation is exhibited furthermore in the long played out romanticism, the dark tinges outlawed until later for which there is plenty of time for it, and in ready manipulations of the high-definition video camera. The cinematography in this medium, under the supervision of Kiko de la Rica, meets the required of standards for a Medem film and the director is likely to continue to experiment with the digital eye for his future projects.
   Formentera is the ideal stage for one of Medem's strange adventures, "a giant lid... like a raft... it's totally hollow, thousands of caves. Not a single rock connects with the sea floor." It is also the perfect environment for the distraught Lucia, a refuge that is as bizarre as her late grandmother's yarn explaining her missing parents, working away from home in heaven with a stall out front of 'angel school', dead in a car crash, it is this that makes Lorenzo's misperceived fate all the more unacceptable to the young heroine. There is a lot to like in Sex And Lucia, and to admire. When the author character is called upon to tell stories, be it via Internet advice, the adaptation of his recently disclosed hidden history to word-processed prose or fairytales to his daughter, the language is magical leaving no doubt as to his literary credentials no matter what other doubts may be had in him.
   One should anticipate hidden levels to Medem's game beyond those apparent from a first viewing but it will be hard to overcome the blunders. They were perhaps unavoidable. How, for instance, could one foresee that the naked loveliness and sexual convoy of tricks perpetrated by the bodily beautiful, picture perfect Paz Vega (seen previously in Nadie Conoce A Nadie, 1999) could be lacking anything, only to be upstaged by Elena Anaya, so sexually-charged in nearly every one of her scenes that it reduces the star to a mildly erotic, and reveals Vega's relative awkwardness with her prone naked form. It is possible that the body doubling of a hand on an erect penis was an afterthought of the director's to battle that problem but even that wasn't going to be enough and now Senorita Vega instead only has some explaining to do to relatives along the lines of: 'It wasn't me.' Obvious sexual imagery is also crude and unnecessarily included in lighthouse towers and holes; heaven forbid that the island was big enough to build a railway and the hills to dig for the train a tunnel. It is a film that is also too keen to please and relieve its characters of their tortured ignorance, the awakenings so frequent and coincidental that they become almost comic.
   Medem is incapable of making a mediocre film. This falls short of his best and we are selfish and ask too much for this is still an engaging tale well presented, decorated with wonderful dialogue that could support an entire French film concept elsewhere. When asked where she is, the recovering Lucia reports "Everyday further from where I was." Words so few and so effective, find them here.
   DVD extras: star and director filmographies, film notes by Roger Clarke, and a Medem trailers reel.

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