Considering I watched Apio Verde at the International Festival of Fantastic, Terror and Science Fiction Films (Feratum), I expected something a bit different from what we got. I expected, yes, a brutal film about the abortion issue but with some crazy fantastic elements attached to its natural horror. Francesc Morales' film doesn't need anything like that, after all we are dealing with the story of a young woman (star Catherine Mozoyer doing a terrific job) who's living a tragic pregnancy: her baby won't survive due the anencephaly disorder and, eventually, her life will be in danger too.
While the movie has some classic physiological horror through its main character (her mind imagines dark things), Morales' main intention is achieving an explicit denouncement against the unjustified Chilean anti-abortion politics. He's not commenting on a social issue from a fantasy piece, but rather just unfolding the woman's case with some iconic horror images that should disturb anyone, though perhaps not as much as the real pictures of anencephalic babies that appear when the woman does a Google search.
Apio Verde opens with a group of female friends discussing love relationships, a sequence that recalls the one from Inglourious Basterds with the camera constantly moving, following the character that's talking. It is indeed a story about love, hence the film's structure is quite conventional: the protagonist unexpectedly finds the man she was looking for, falls in love and a serious relationship begins, so we are just waiting for the moment for things go in the wrong direction. It's not the most surprising movie you'll find, but it's painful and intriguing with the serious tone I already mentioned.
Morales' speech is proudly pro-choice, with direct dialog that indicates Chile is one of the few countries where abortion is (no matter what) illegal, as well as a fair representation of each social sector: the family, the press, politicians and, of course, the church (a nun helps the woman and is removed from her charge in consequence). It never feels preachy or one-sided but always necessary, perfectly representing the horror and desperation the woman is facing.
The title refers to a homemade abortion method consisting in injecting apio verde (green celery) into the woman's vagina - so there it is, the real desperation. The closing sequence show us footage of Chilean pro-choice protestors, and Apio Verde is a film that walks together with them, supporting the cause and creating a powerful experience for its audience.