Natalia Solian’s wide range of facial expressions is the star of Michelle Garza Cervera’s narrative debut, Huesera. With a sharp, focused determination, Valeria Hernandez is the protagonist in this chilling tale of body horror. As she looks at the child playingfully contorting their faces in a doctor’s chair, you can see the disgust in her eyes.

‘Huesera’ Movie Review

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Midnight)
Cast: Natalia Solián, Alfonso Dosal, Mayra Batalla, Mercedes Hernández
Director: Michelle Garza Cervera
Screenwriter: Michelle Garza Cervera, Abia Castillo

Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

Her lips will twitch as she discovers that her baby is real. Her face will turn into a nursery when she thinks of turning her carpentry shop into a nursery.

Valeria doesn’t want to have a baby. It’s not a stretch to say that Huesera focuses primarily on the emotional turmoil of Valeria’s pregnancy and the eventual strains it will have on her motherhood. Cervera’s work is much more than that. Huesera is a more sophisticated film, a clever study of self-deception and desire.

Valeria is haunted by society’s expectations. She desperately wants to become pregnant at the beginning of the film. She travels to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to leave an offering and pray for a child. The chorus sings “La Guadalupana”, a Mexican song about the virgin-mother, to soundtrack her actions. The camera pans to reveal the entire statue of Guadalupe, before moving to another scene where a similar-shaped figure is ablaze.

While the transition prepares us for the dark, twisting turns Huesera takes and anchors us into Mexico City’s atmosphere, it does not prepare us for the film’s truly terrifying moments. These are the ones that cast familiar events as evil occurrences.

Valeria (Alfonso Dosal) and Raul (Alfonso Dosal) spend the days following their trip waiting anxiously for the results of a recent pregnancy check. The couple discovers they are officially pregnant. Elation quickly turns to anxiety. It is necessary to buy cribs, renovate rooms, and pay family visits.

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These rituals cause Valeria’s belly to swell and her nightmares begin. Valeria wakes up with mysterious bruises and sore muscles. An evil spirit has taken the baby she carries and is intent on torturing her. Huesera is excited to continue in the tradition of films such as Rosemary’s Baby and the short stories by Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin. These works play with the relationship between pregnant women and demonic forces and, on a deeper, anxiety about motherhood.

Valeria’s perception of reality is distorted by the danger of corporeal rebellion. The boundary between fantasy and real life blurs. Paranoia can set in. She makes more questionable decisions. Cervera, who co-wrote Huesera screenplay with Abia castillo, skillfully layers the horrors and motherhood of Valeria’s pregnancies with the necessary backstory. This personal story reveals how Valeria’s decision to marry Raul and have a child shows her self-betrayal.

But she couldn’t help but feel it. Valeria was born into a tight family environment. Her parents are relieved to hear the news. Valeria’s older sister is furious. These are just a few questions that Huesera asks. It examines, although more stodgily than its name implies, society’s terrible expectations of women.

Valeria’s aunt Isabel (Mercedes Hernandez) and her former friend Octavia Mayra Batalla offer support and are examples of alternative options. These women defied conventions and created paths that were more true to their true selves.

Solian’s performance is brilliant because of her confidence and sensitivity about her character’s relationships to society. Valeria even wishes she had a normal life. The expressions and body language of Solian convey a closeness to her character’s grooves. Valeria’s increasingly erratic behavior makes it seem more urgent, raising the stakes in an already tense story.

Huesera was premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. Cervera won the Nora Ephron award (for best female filmmaker and the prize for the best new narrative director) These are fitting accolades for someone, Huesera, who declares herself an artist worth paying attention to.