Art, life, and their often diametrically opposed choices sit at the heart of Paz Fábrega’s latest feature.
Luisa (Rebeca Woodbridge) is a performance and visual artist who makes ends meet teaching children. When she finds the older sister of a student throwing up in the school toilets, she takes the girl, Yuliana (Raquel Villalobos), under her wing. There are few options for someone with an unwanted pregnancy in Costa Rica. Luisa begins to occupy an uneasy position between mentor, teacher, mother, and friend as the 17-year-old Yuliana decides to seek an adoption keep her condition a secret from her family. Meanwhile, Luisa continues her teaching and artwork – but finishing one choreography seems beyond her.
“…conversations about miscarriage and grief even with the child is wanted and planned are frank.”
For its serious subject matter, AURORA is full of love, life, and laughter. Yuliana’s teenage friends are gregarious and intimate with each other, palpably comfortable in their little community that Julia is leaving all too soon. The women who look after Yuliana – Luisa’s friends, doctors, and social workers – are unfailingly kind in their advice, even if the options are limited. Some of it can feel hollow due to her fundamental lack of choice, but keeping the teenager comfortable, happy, and regaining some of her autonomy stays at the heart of these conversations. Many of these women share some, if not all, of Yuliana’s story in the simple chance often at play in pregnancy; conversations about miscarriage and grief even with the child is wanted and planned are frank. Luisa’s artistic ambitions increasingly take a backseat to the simple act of surviving, much less bringing in another life.
“Villalobos shines in stillness and quietness, and Fábrega’s camera lingers on her face in moments of inactivity.”
Woodbridge bottles Luisa’s unending energy and lets her thoughts, aspirations, and opinions leak out at a slightly higher frequency than her scene mates do. This direction makes Luisa a tricky character, especially as she pushes herself into Yuliana’s life, but the coping mechanisms of her independence are believable. By contrast, Villalobos shines in stillness and quietness, and Fábrega’s camera lingers on her face in moments of inactivity. There is no definitive read to Yuliana’s understanding of or feelings about her situation: some moments she laughs at her lack of knowledge of how she became pregnant, and in others, she weeps for fear.
The difficulties of motherhood and creation, in all its forms, are at the fore of AURORA. The film’s reflective space and diegetic sound design make space for its characters to seek their purpose in a world with no easy choices, and the simple yet unfathomably weighty choices each character must make will stay in mind regardless of interpretation.