A lonely, socially awkward young woman finds refuge and a role in a lively household of half-sisters in this humorous and poignant character study from Mexican writer/director Claudia Sainte-Luce.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
A totally captivating performance by Ximena Ayala (Claudia) leads this beautiful and unusual story of an outsider and her chance connection with an eccentric Mexican family. We first meet Claudia in her squalid garage in Guadalajara, and follow her silent, bizarre existence as she buses to her job at the local supermarket, where co-workers stare and talk behind her back. Claudia’s slow (probably protein-starved) response is to keep staring back at life, taking it all in with huge open eyes. When her health fails, she is befriended in hospital by the beautiful Martha, who invites Claudia home to stay with her four children, who range from pre-teen to adult. Being plunged into this chaotic and dynamic domestic life is a surreal pleasure – if you thought your family was odd, you’ll be glad to know you’re not alone. Swift mood swings and outbursts, strange hours and practices are the norm. Claudia, who has been floating her way through life, seems happy for the first time. As Martha’s illness worsens we see a friendship grow between the two who are each meeting the other’s need – one for a family, and one for a friend. The performances are vigorous: spirited, funny and perfectly at home in this pacey and surprising film. Terrific editing takes us in and out of the action without over-explaining. A brilliant first feature from Claudia Saint-Luce, Catfish is partially based on her own experiences. — Jo Randerson