CLARA SOLA (MIFF 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Clara Sola maps a woman’s journey of self-knowing. From the opening moments, cinematographer Sophie Winqvist captures what is to become a steady stream of shots that focus on Clara’s hands and fingers, with a conscious emphasis on touch; not just for Clara to touch things or extend her hands towards things just out of reach, but, perhaps just as importantly, to be touched.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 1, 2022: CLARA SOLA

The powerful need for expression and agency are at the heart of Nathalie Alvarez Mesen’s debut feature Clara Sola. The film centers on a 40-year-old Costa Rican woman named Clara (a mesmerizing Wendy Chinchilla Araya), whose deep connection to nature and animals seems to include the mystical ability to heal — but whose body and soul are constantly repressed, particularly by her devout mother, Fresia (Flor María Vargas Chavez). When Clara dares to test those constraints, the consequences are volatile.

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CLARA SOLA – Review by Pam Grady

At age 40, Clara (beautifully portrayed by Wendy Chinchilla Araya) lives in an almost childlike state, trapped there by her mother, Fresia (Flor Maria Vargas Chavez), who so dominates her daughter’ life that she won’t even allow Clara the spinal surgery that would relieve her of lifelong pain.

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CLARA SOLA – Review by Loren King

The unique and wholly original Clara Sola is a gorgeous, finely etched character study about the title character, a mature woman with physical and mental limitations who rebels against repression by her mother and her environment, a lush and mysterious Costa Rican forest. The magnificent Wendy Chinchilla Araya, making her movie debut, plays the childlike Clara who lives with her niece María (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza) and her religious mother Fresia (Flor María Vargas Chaves).

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CLARA SOLA – Review by Leslie Combemale

It seems Alvarez Mesén and her co-screenwriter Maria Camila Arias aim to articulate the challenge of women living in a society that prioritizes god above man, man above woman, and mankind above nature, all through Clara. They were lucky to find Wendy Chinchilla Araya to collaborate in that articulation. It is a lot of responsibility to put on someone for their first acting role, yet she brings an elemental ferocity and tenderness to the character. Chinchillla Araya shows us Clara’s internal dance, in her fearful interactions with humans and her fearless interactions with animals. Her connection to the elements is always in evidence. She is not just of nature, but is nature. In that way, both the character and the film as a whole are a powerful expression of the divine feminine.

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CLARA SOLA – Review by Leslie Combemale

It seems writer/director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén and her co-screenwriter Maria Camila Arias aim to articulate the challenge of women living in a society that prioritizes god above man, man above woman, and mankind above nature, all through Clara. They were lucky to find Wendy Chinchillla Araya to collaborate in that articulation. It is a lot of responsibility to put on someone for their first acting role, yet she brings an elemental ferocity and tenderness to the character. Chinchillla Araya shows us Clara’s internal dance, in her fearful interactions with humans and her fearless interactions with animals. Her connection to the elements is always in evidence. She is not just of nature, but is nature. In that way, both the character and the film as a whole are a powerful expression of the divine feminine.

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Nathalie Álvarez Mesén chats CLARA SOLA and Mystical Filmmaking – Jennifer Merin interviews

With her first feature, Nathalie Álvarez Mesén steps into the limelight of the international cinema realm. Clara Sola premiered in the Director’s Fortnight at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, and the film is Costa Rica’s official submission to the Oscars. Álvarez Mesén is a Costa Rican-Swedish screenwriter/director with an M.F.A. from Columbia University’s Film Program. Her international upbringing and education are reflected in her unique filmmaker’s perspective that reveals itself in Clara Sola‘s feminist theme and mystical story about an upcountry woman whose divine healing powers are channeled through her intimate relationship with nature and animals.

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