Tribeca 2022 Review: HUESERA
Valerie and her partner Raul are trying to have their first child. While she appears convicted in this pursuit there is doubt rising. This is made even worse by her own mom and sister, questioning if she is ready for motherhood. And yet, they warn her that she'll turn into a spinster like her aunt, Chabe, if she doesn't start a family soon.
Her sister does not really have the higher ground. She raises their kids on her own, she never gets to goes out, yet she chides Valerie because she won't even look after her neice and nephew. There is a story they share about Valerie and the day she looked after the neighbour's son, everyone having fun with it at her expense.
As her pregnancy progresses Valerie insists that she is being haunted by a mysterious woman, Huesera, translated as the Bone Girl. From a random sighting on a drive home, to across the street, Huesera gets closer and closer to Valerie. Each frightening interaction further breaks her resolve. As loving a relationship with Raul is, even his patience is tested after her many outbursts.
Traditional medicine for the pregnancy is all well and good but Valerie will have to tap into local traditions and rites through her aunt for help with this horrific haunting. Chabe hints at darker traditions, but hopes that Valerie never has to resort to using them. It is not the only decision Valeris will have to make as this nightmare worsens.
The story of Huesera comes from Michelle Garza Cervera’s searching into her own family history, of a grandmother who became the 'unnamable witch' to her family after she made an incredible decision about her part in it.
In a early director's statement Cervera said she went into this film with, "... the intention of observing my grandmother without the moral judgments that stubbornly condemn, silence and even erase from the map the women who dare to openly doubt their maternity".
Even though this is Cervera's debut feature you would think she's been making movies her whole life. Touted as a talent to watch out for Huesera is such an impressive looking film to begin with- shot with precession, clarity and purpose.
She is proven to be very creative as well. Throughout her film Cervera uses reflections from mirrors and shiny surfaces to create this duality of Valerie's life. Not only the sides of her that want to be a mom and nothing to do with her child, but also of the past and the present trying to occupy the same space. There are hints at a rebellious past of punk rock and shaved heads, of which she still keeps remnants of in the bedroom closet. An old flame only complicates the matter by igniting bygone passions. Likewise, further into her descent of despair Cervera uses the bars of the crib give a sense that Valerie is trapped now. She feels imprisoned by her choice to have a child.
As excellent as Cervera's direction is, so is the acting of her lead, Natalia Solián. From the joy of finding out she is expecting, through the frustration of dealing with her family, experiencing love anew and love rekindled, to the growing terror of being haunted by Huesera Solián has to portray a full spectrum of emotion in this role.
Shocking turns in the final act that finally push her towards her aunt and their friends for help. It is in its finale is where Cervera embelishes in her creativity, with a heart-stopping creature at the end of the film. All throughout her film it is a case of less is more. Though they may be few when compared to her contemporaries the jump scares are amazing and incredibly effective. Make sure your skin is stretched on tight because Michelle will have you jumping out of it in no time. It is scary when it has to be, not because it can be.
Huesera is something more than what Cervera has achieved on a filmmaking and storytelling level. It is the kind of psychological horror film that is going to land differently for different people.
Already, after just the premiere, women all over are speaking out about how this film has affected them. The only way I understand even an aiota of what is going with Valeria is the expectation on her to raise a family. I grew up in a faith community where you were expected to, according to scripture 'bear fruit and mulitply'.
I do not understand nor comprehend the phsyicality of carrying a child to term. I still do not know what happens to the female body when they carry a child to term, though the bone crunching and Valerie's mother's talk at the beginning of this story, about feeling like you're being seperated into two people, is an early indicator of what Valerie will experience physically and mentally.
This is the power of Huesera, a horror film that will speak to its audience and affect them in different ways. It is not a one note horror film. It hits differently than most.
Huesera culminantes to a truly unexpected ending, one that is decisive but also equivocal. It signals the arrival of great talent, a moment of 'I told you so' from those who have heralded Cervera's short film work. You were not wrong. She is a talent to keep an eye on, one not afraid to make bold decisions with this character in her debut film, a representation of her Abuela and the daring choice she made all those years ago.