The Milk of Sorrow (La Teta Asustada) Peruvian Film Review
By Kam Williams
Atmospheric Academy Award-Nominee Arrives in TheatersNominated for an Oscar earlier this year in the Best Foreign Language Film category, The Milk of Sorrow is an introspective mood piece shot against an array of atmospheric backdrops around the city of Lima. More engaging than the underdeveloped storyline are the soulful, ever-expressive eyes of its visually-arresting protagonist, Fausta (Magaly Solier), a beautiful but bordering on catatonic young woman afflicted with the rare disease from which the picture takes its title.
You know how a baby can be born addicted to crack or with fetal alcohol syndrome, if its mother was a substance abuser during pregnancy? Well, this flick relies on the novel notion that a rape victim can unwittingly transmit the trauma of a sexual assault merely by breastfeeding her offspring.
That's what happened to the ethereal Fausta, whose late mom (Barbara Lazon) never recovered from being violated during a period of civil unrest in her native Peru. Sadly, the sins of the marauders were visited upon the peasant's daughter who now suffers from nose bleeds and feinting spells, much to the chagrin of her doting uncle (Marino Ballon).
He accompanies her to the doctor who is skeptical about the existence of the aforementioned malady. Instead, the doubting physician misdiagnoses it as a classic case of tuber womb. Yes, Fausta had admittedly taken to placing a potato in her vagina at the suggestion of her mother, as a means of warding off an attacker. But that chastity protector has nothing to do with the hard, cold truth that she's come into the world "without a soul because it hid underground out of fear."
Thus, whether serving as a bridesmaid in her cousin Maxima's (Maria del Pilar Guerrero) wedding to Marcos (Edward Llungo), or working as a housekeeper for a tempermental, accomplished pianist (Susi Sanchez), we see that our damaged heroine maintains that vacant, thousand-yard stare of a grizzled war veteran, never managing to muster up anything in the way of emotions.
This evocative example of Magical Realism paints a relentlessly-grim, if visually-captivating, portrait of a tormented soul suffering in silence while simultaneously delivering a powerful message about the continuing consequences of rape across generations like a ripple on a pond.
Excellent (4 stars)
In Spanish and Quecha with subtitles.
Running time: 100 Minutes
Distributor: Olive Films
To see a trailer for The Milk of Sorrow, click play:
Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze.
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