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Review: 'The Headless Woman'

A seemingly everyday person can be plenty scary, as Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel suggests.

September 04, 2009|Kevin Thomas

Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel's "The Headless Woman" is not the supernatural horror picture its title suggests, but this subtle, elliptical film evokes its own kind of nightmarish situation. As with "The Swamp" (2001) and "The Holy Girl" (2004), Martel continues to explore the consequences of self-absorbed upper-middle-class obtuseness and complacency.

Driving away from a gathering of friends and family in the countryside, Veronica (Maria Onetto) strikes something as she attempts to answer her cellphone. She continues into town to receive treatment for a small cut on her forehead. Dazed and disoriented, she takes time off from her dental practice. She tells herself she hit a dog but later admits to her husband, Marcos (Cesar Bordon), that it may have been a boy. Increasingly, she develops a need to get at the truth, only to discover that her husband has already covered her tracks. Will Veronica be haunted by her behavior or, in time, merely be grateful to her husband?

Throughout, Martel, ever astute at depicting family gatherings, with their constant shifts between attention and neglect, skillfully plays with ambiguity, never more so than with Veronica, so stunningly played by Onetto from deep within. Her Veronica evokes sympathy only to leave us wondering whether she deserves it.

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'The Headless Woman'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Running time: 1 hour,

27 minutes

Language: In Spanish with English subtitles

Playing: At the Sunset 5, West Hollywood, and University Town Center, Irvine.

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