Lucia, Lucia

on July 25, 2003 by Sheri Linden
A middle-aged woman changes her life for the better when disaster strikes in "Lucia, Lucia,"--but far from a dark, sedate drama, this Mexican hit is a buoyant, protean fable told by an admittedly unreliable narrator. Cecilia Roth, best known in this country for her work with Pedro Almodovar, is likable and down-to-earth as a children's book author long overdue for an awakening, and she finds sympatico support in her two charming leading men.

After Lucia's husband of 12 years disappears just as they're about to board a flight to Rio, her friends leave messages chalking it up to his being a philanderer. Her parents, actors whose marriage is a well-rehearsed pas de deux of resentment and blame, stop by to offer their own ineffectual brand of comfort. But two strangers, neighbors in her Mexico City apartment building, come to Lucia's rescue: Felix (Carlos Alvarez-Novoa), a widower and onetime anti-Franco fighter who's a few decades older than her and still a bit of a firebrand; and Adrian (Kuno Becker), a musician 20 years her junior. Both are smitten with her, but she's been deprived of true affection for so long that the possibility of romance barely registers, even as she realizes that she doesn't miss her husband. Soon enough, Lucia's new soulmates are helping her deal with kidnappers' demands, money drops and inept police. Sparked by Felix's deep suspicion of authority, the trio initiates its own investigation into the band of murderous Maoists behind the kidnapping.

In his second feature, writer-director Antonio Serrano, adapting Rosa Montero's novel "La Hija del canibal (The Cannibal's Daughter)," moves lightly among genres: comic adventure, political thriller, romantic drama. Until the film's subtle payoff, the shifts in tone sometimes come across as uncertainty, but that's not a huge problem, and gradually it makes sense: A certified fabulist is at the center of this story, trying to figure out how to tell the tale. The ways and reasons we make fiction--including the fiction of a happy marriage--are the playful but resonant notions that keep the story afloat. Starring Cecilia Roth, Carlos Alvarez-Novoa, Kuno Becker, Javier Diaz Duenas, Margarita Isabel and Hector Ortetga. Directed and written by Antonio Serrano. Produced by Epigmenio Ibarra, Carlos Payan, Christian Valdelievre, Inna Payan and Matthias Ehrenberg. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for sexuality, language and brief drug use. Running time: 108 min.

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