A woman may be married for years, yet never really know her husband. That theme, so dear to telenovelas, is the starting point for Lucía, Lucía, the second film by Mexican writer-director Antonio Serrano (Sex, Shame, and Tears). Blending elements of recent Spanish-language hits (from the intergenerational romance and road trip of Y Tu Mamá También to the dignified, elderly neighbor of Solas), the film focuses on Lucía (Cecilia Roth), a middle-aged children’s book author, who is en route to a Brazilian vacation with her husband, Ramón, when he mysteriously disappears. Was Ramón kidnapped, unfaithful, or merely fed up? Lucía is bereft but clueless. Soon 74-year-old Félix (Carlos Álvarez-Novoa), who lives downstairs, and Adrián (Kuno Becker), a cute, garret-dwelling young musician, show up to alleviate her solitude and help find him. Their journey together takes Lucía through Mexico’s underworld, in search of herself.
Roth (who starred, most memorably, in Almodóvar’s All About My Mother) has perfected the art of mourning seductively. But the film surrounds her with gimmicks, like the constantly shifting decor of her apartment, which moves between frumpily nondescript and tropical glam-pad, and which is accompanied by similar alterations in her appearance. Meant to suggest the kaleidoscopic nature of identity in a world where nothing is certain, these changes are sometimes effectively unsettling, at other times merely bewildering. Confusion also surrounds the film’s unsatisfying pastiche of genres—a gently comic and suspenseful thriller that is at once (self-consciously?) soap-operatic and philosophically ambitious. But it lacks the toughness and social insights of its Mexican new wave predecessors like Amores Perros. And even as the story of one woman’s midlife crisis, it’s a bit lightweight.