Costa Rican Swedish filmmaker Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s feature debut “Clara Sola” won over the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2021 before becoming Costa Rica’s Oscar entry for the 2022 Academy Awards. While the film didn’t make the Best International Feature final five, this magical-realist drama is finally making its way to U.S. theaters courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories on July 1. Watch the trailer, exclusive to IndieWire, below.
“Clara Sola” is set in a remote village in Costa Rica, where 40-year-old Clara endures a repressively religious and withdrawn life under the domineering eye of her mother. Her uncanny affinity for creatures large and small allows Clara to take solace in the natural world around her. But tension builds within the family as Clara’s younger niece approaches her quinceañera, stirring up a sexual and mystical awakening in Clara, and a journey to unfetter herself from the patriarchal structures and social conventions that have commanded her life.
Reviewing out of Cannes last year, The Hollywood Reporter found a likeness between Clara and a most unusual genre anti-heroine: Carrie White. “The title character of the remarkable Clara Sola is a 40-year-old virgin. You might also call her a middle-aged version of Sissy Spacek’s ‘Carrie.’ But Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s first feature is neither a comedy nor a horror freak-out. Set in a rural village and cast with non-actors, led by a feral performance from dancer Wendy Chinchilla Araya, the drama occupies its own territory, tinged with magic realism and deeply immersed in the sensory world. It’s also a vivid reminder that even a matriarchy can be paternalistic.”
“Clara is a character that grew up with a conservative template to follow, and I was interested in exploring who she truly was when she had no role to play — alone with nature, unfiltered,” Álvarez Mesén said in a director’s statement. “There is something spiritual in that freedom that nature provides, as opposed to most religions, which have rules and restrictions that often put women at a disadvantage. In a world governed by retrograde norms and consumption, being kind and true to oneself and to nature is an act of rebellion. Hopefully, the film feels empowering — I like to see the story as a calling to disobedience, to heal oneself/nature, even if on the way you may have to burn some religions/norms/relationships. I like phoenixes that way.”