Written and directed by Michelle Garza Cervera, co-written by Abia Castillo, Valeria has long dreamed about becoming a mother. After learning that she’s pregnant, she expects to feel happy, yet something’s off. Starring: Natalia Solián, Alfonso Dosal, Mayra Batalla, Mercedes Hernández, Sonia Couoh, Aida López and Anahí Allué.
Horror has always been a great genre to explore the fears, anxieties and insecurities surrounding the entrance to motherhood. There are moments of this film which feel more closely to what might have been expected from Alexis Jacknow’s Clock. It zeroes in on the intensity of Valeria’s (Natalia Solián) struggle, turning her apprehension into a crippling fear. There’s also plenty of discussion to be had about how much of her struggle is related to undiagnosed mental health issues, displaying symptoms of schizophrenia. Natalia Solián’s performance is fantastic, it’s very on edge and bursting emotion. It encapsulates all the different problems that Valeria is facing and does so in a way that’s hugely sympathetic and touching, even almost uncomfortable at times with how much you want to help her.
Additionally, it’s interesting that if you look at this film as a whole, men are present but they have so little influence on the story, including Valeria’s husband Raúl (Alfonso Dosal). This is a story about women and they take the lead because they both relate to the struggle of motherhood and can be the ones who judge you most strongly for your choices. It’s great to see how succinctly it’s told through a woman’s perspective, especially in how it explores the hesitancy in becoming a mother. Slowly it’s becoming more common for media to acknowledge not every woman wants to be a mother or is made for it. It’s definitely the strongest thing that the story has to offer in throwing aside the typical expectation of women to have flawless maternal instincts and taking a real look at the mental, emotional difficulties attached to pregnancy and new-borns. Particularly in its bold and well chosen ending.
However, the film does have some typical issues in using horror to explore this topic, it can feel sporadic or disconnected at times. Almost as if Huesera: The Bone Woman is trying to make more than one film at once, the drama and horror don’t always blend. The tone is certainly there but with the progression being quite slow and only dipping its toes into the cultural side, it can feel like pieces that don’t quite want to go together. It does manage to keep an impressively consistent tension throughout but that difficulty in bringing together the different genres can make it feel unfocused. Although the visual quality throughout is nicely consistent too.
Huesera: The Bone Woman is a tense, anxiety-filled exploration of a woman on the cusp of motherhood. The use of horror creates the perfect heavy, fearful tone to tell this story but the more physical examples of it don’t always work well. The story has a fantastic idea and being told from such a succinct woman’s perspective is great to see but it can move a touch too slowly and miss out on building a more captivating progression. It’s led by a terrific performance from Natalia Solián but it feels as though if it cut down on a few of its detours, it could have had a stronger focus to push it further.