So much of what shapes the narrative and tone of Clara Sola is unspoken. Writer/director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s first feature balances the story between protagonist Clara (dancer Wendy Chinchilla Araya, in her acting debut) and nature itself, which exists as almost as another character. The cast moves through the story like choreographed dancers in an often wordless landscape, while the camera catches the movements of trees and animals, the rush of water, and the score beats the rhythms of the earth. Clara Sola, Costa Rica’s official Oscars submission, is a meditation on the inherent mysticism of the natural world, while still considering the creative and destructive aspects of human constructs like religion, and the misogyny it fosters. The film doesn’t always articulate its messages clearly, and that may be intentional by Álvarez Mesén. After all, no time like the present pandemic to be reminded that life as a human is often a confusing mess, and nature can be both a heartless bitch and the open, giving heart of god at once.
Clara is a watchful, sensitive, largely silent 40-year-old woman living what feels like deep in the forests of Costa Rica with her mother and niece. She gives the gift of healing to members of her village and beyond. Whether this gift is given freely, or is expected by her repressive, overbearing, religious mother is unclear but unlikely. Clara is a woman that exists as extension of her natural world, and her ability to heal is a byproduct of her connection to the elements. It is also, one might argue, a byproduct of her passion and lack of shame in all things, but especially in her sexuality. She understands the callings of her body are rooted in the elements and the natural world that lives both inside and outside herself.
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