A Fascinating Protagonist Leads Murky, Compelling Drama

Feb 3, 2023

Home Movie Reviews Blanquita Review: A Fascinating Protagonist Leads Murky, Compelling Drama

Instead, Blanquita is a film that forces its viewers to confront the harsh truths behind systems of power through a sympathetic, unreliable viewpoint.

Laura López in Blanquita

Chile’s submission for the Best International Feature Film category at the 2023 Oscars, Blanquita, is a heavy watch that somehow lasts less than an hour and forty minutes, yet manages to leave a searing impact. Inspired by true events, writer-director Fernando Guzzoni unspools a tale of sexual assault and the fight for justice, which never seems to be as cut and dry as one might hope. Blanquita doesn’t give the audience easy answers, nor does it aim to put a hopeful spin on its all-too realistic ending. Instead, Blanquita is a film that forces its viewers to confront the harsh truths behind systems of power through a sympathetic, unreliable viewpoint.

The titular Blanquita (Laura López) lives in a shelter for lost, abused kids with her infant daughter. Violent outbursts among the residents aren’t uncommon, and many are too traumatized to stand as witnesses against those who hurt them. When a prominent public figure is arrested on charges of sexual abuse against minors, Blanquita becomes a star witness for the case due to her vivid memories of what happened and her ability to speak clearly about them. Aided by the priest who runs the shelter, Manuel (Alejandro Goic), Blanquita raises the stakes by implicating a politician as well. However, cracks in Blanquita’s story soon emerge, sending everything careening in a vastly different direction.

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Laura López in Blanquita

Guzzoni stages Blanquita with a sparse, melancholy air. From the shelter to the various halls of justice the character travels to, Guzzoni keeps the viewer unable to relax as the central case gets underway. In some moments, Blanquita even feels like a horror film; an unsettling score occasionally rears its head with discordant notes, and even when Blanquita is alone, there’s a feeling of suspense. The important thing to remember, though, is that the horrors of Blanquita are devastatingly real. Guzzoni doesn’t shy away from the disturbing facts of the case; while never explicitly shown, specifics are discussed, and they can be hard to hear. Law & Order: SVU might do the same thing, but Blanquita sits in its eponymous character’s testimony and pokes at the scars that linger.

However, it also takes a thrilling risk in potentially alienating viewers from Blanquita. Guzzoni was intrigued by a real life case that transpired and aims to tell a similar story here. Without giving too much away, Blanquita’s descriptive, believable recounting of what happened to her soon becomes murky. Guzzoni doesn’t pry too much into the parts of her story that are true, or exactly why she’s so steadfast in her quest for justice. Viewers are left to form their own conclusions, and they might end up disagreeing with Blanquita’s actions. However, this is a character who is never anything less than compelling thanks to López’s performance. She rarely lets anyone get too close, the audience included, but her haunted gaze and steely spine confirm she’s someone who must be listened to, even if what she’s saying isn’t quite the truth.

Laura López in Blanquita

Because Blanquita is such a cipher, the movie itself threatens to muddle up its own message. On some level, Guzzoni is right to keep his protagonist and her intentions so mysterious, since that tracks with how many cases of this nature play out. On the other, there are moments where one wonders if Blanquita would’ve benefited from a bit more clarity. Guzzoni lays enough groundwork for viewers to piece together some answers if they’re paying attention, but with a lack of explanation for why those answers have come to be, Blanquita is, at times, dangerously distant.

Despite that, though, Blanquita will still leave viewers strongly affected. It’s hard not to become emotional when stories of sexual abuse against minors play out in a stark manner, but this movie is about more than that. It questions how one seeks justice and whether any method is too far, and it examines the lasting traumas inflicted upon victims. Blanquita might’ve been better served by some stronger answers, but its refusal to give easy explanations makes it genuinely compelling in the end.

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Blanquita was released in select theaters on Friday, December 9. It is 98 minutes long and unrated.

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