Fantastic Fest XVII Review: AMAZING ELIZA, Exploring Trauma To Reveal A Bigger, More Peculiar Picture
As far as she’s concerned, Eliza (Jana San Antonio) is no ordinary girl. Point, in fact, she is thoroughly convinced that she is a superhero and that the only thing that sets her apart from her favorite comic book superhero is that she herself doesn’t have a dog…
This is just part and parcel to the surreal goings-on we see in writer/director Sadrac González-Perellón’s new drama, Amazing Eliza. Slow-moving and pensive and sometimes chilling, the story toggles between several arcs, the second of which also centers on the troubled marriage between artist and gallery owner, Hector (Asier Exteandia) and his paraplegic wife, Ursula (Silvia Abascal), and third of which revolves around a mysterious woman who also happens to be something of a living personification of Eliza’s favorite superhero.
These three arcs all culminate into what González-Perellón crafts as a surrealistic psychological drama that tries to speak to the ways in which we deal with our own internal pain and trauma. Eliza’s affliction makes her believe she’s imbued with superpowers, and they only work if she concentrates hard enough. Ursula loves her husband, but not enough to rule out having a spontaneous affair in order to see if she can still feel something.
There’s a backstory that conjoins the two arcs before the film brings things full circle. It’s pretty wild to see unfold at first, but there’s a more allegorical messaging to be seen here. It could be deduced to a reflection on what it means to be human, as supposed to what it means to be strong, or in this case, “super.” In the cases of both Eliza and Ursula, you can say the messaging deals in the urge and desire to be in control of typically uncontrollable situations that life brings, regardless of how illusory it is in our own needs for “power”, although with Eliza, we can also see the importance of exploring these themes through the lens of a child who still has her life ahead of her.
There’s a scene where Eliza takes it upon herself to confront an abusive neighbor who yells at and beats his wife and son. It’s not the smartest move in the world, but she presses on until she finds herself in a similar situation where some superheroes tend to find themselves when confronted by an innocent bystander, afraid for their lives. Remember that scene in The Batman? Or Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil? You may know the one.
I also felt like the addition of a darkly-dressed male figure with a face and head pixelated to obscure its identity was pretty roguish on the director’s part. Even now, it makes me wonder if the two male figures we see in the film are the same person leading up to the scenes big closer.
There’s quite a bit to unpack in Amazing Eliza from start to finish, depending on what your tastes and perceptions are. It is important to note that this film, for what it’s worth, stays as grounded as you might expect for an arthouse drama with a good deal of symbolism. The cast performances are strong throughout, with Antonio carrying the torch as its headlining star, and for that, Amazing Eliza certainly leaves an impression.
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Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.