In Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran’s VERONICA, a retired psychologist (Arcelia Ramírez) who lives in a secluded mountain cabin agrees to help Verónica (Olga Segura), a troubled young woman with a shady past. Veronica’s last psychologist went missing under suspicious circumstances, and when the therapy sessions begin, we find out all is not as expected.
I think it’s sad that we have to point out when a movie is in black and white like it’s some sort of abnormality, but here we are; VERONICA is indeed presented in black and white. Since when did a monochrome color scheme become a brave choice? I know I have friends who refuse to watch a film if it’s not in color, and I’m sure they’re part of the majority. When was the last time a black and white film stormed the box office? Schindler’s List?
VERONICA ain’t afraid to lack color, however it has its reasons. First of all, it’s a low budget psychological thriller that takes place in one location, so a varied palette isn’t one of its top priorities. None of the action takes place outside of the mountain location. The focus is on the dialogue, which VERONICA uses like an action film would use a gunfight. The screenplay leans on the actors to pull it off, and Segura and Ramírez do an admirable job with the small resources afforded to them.
The psychologist (billed as such in the credits) starts out with the upper-hand, but as the two women play off each other, Verónica takes control of the situation, reversing power roles. Sexual tension builds quickly, and the two become closer than the doctor-patient relationship dictates. The dialogue is peppered with philosophy and snippets of psychological wisdom in an attempt to paint its characters more deeply and say something meaningful.
There’s another reason for the film’s limited color scheme, but I can’t talk about it without spoiling the story. Algara and Martinez-Beltran pull a cinematic switcheroo when the revelations start rolling in, which is fine, but the journey to get there is a long and slow one.
The plot knocks down its twists like dominoes, but the details are questionable, only making a semblance of sense at the very end. Why is our psychologist dealing out therapy in the mountains? Why is there so much suspicion placed on Verónica before we even know her previous shrink went missing?
Our protagonist proves to be the absolute worst psychologist ever, leaving us wondering if she got her credentials out of a vending machine. Sure, this all makes some sense at the end, but it’s frustrating before we get there. Algara and Martinez-Beltran’s may have relied too heavily on “clever twists”.
However, this is an impressive effort for the clearly low budget, and worth a look for the performances. VERONICA screened as part of the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.