La Verónica (literally) centres on social media star and footballer’s wife Veronica (Mariana Di Girólamo), whose persistent efforts to procure a sponsorship deal is derailed by re-surfaced murder charges of their infant child from many years ago.
Director Leonardo Medel frames the entire film in a medium close-up shot of Veronica’s face in the centre. This conceit hinges on the idea that her life is seen through the prism of her social media presence and Veronica being self-obsessed to an infanticidal degree. This unique approach may be conceptually interesting but finds many narrative pitfalls along the way.
Vignettes with revolving characters reveal the morally compromised layers of Veronica as she adopts a different personality for every occasion. Veronica is on the cusp of becoming the face of Beaut Lipstick, which could catapult her career and give her purpose. However, she is shy of the 2 million follower prerequisite, so she ramps up her social media presence through videos and modelling shoots, all at the expense of her family.
The film is carried through the highly expressive performance of Girólamo, who flicks a switch between being emotionally distraught with her husband to her “vacuous look” for photoshoots. Her real persona in private moments casts her in an unflattering light as she resents her housekeeper for showing compassion for her baby.
In one moment, Veronica holds her baby, and the baby cries hysterically because she pumps synth music to a deafening volume. When the housekeeper turns it down and takes the baby away, Veronica’s attitude that “sometimes babies need to be smacked up to stop fussing” leaves the audience utterly unsympathetic but still transfixed by how easily she changes personality.
In this way, the film could act as a striking companion piece to an earlier 2020 film starring Girólamo, Ema. Both films share remarkably similar themes of a young mother liberating herself from the manacles of motherhood by living an independent lifestyle. While Veronica is conspicuously contemptuous of her child and therefore less likeable here, the actress plays each of them with a spirited purpose that is admirable in its ambition.
The only time there is a semblance of sympathy emanating from Veronica is when she is in another photoshoot, but this time with a burn victim, Ignacia, for a new campaign she is working on to bolster her popularity. In the brief exchange she has with Ignacia, Veronica appears to have genuine warmth toward her. However, this could be a red herring considering Veronica is coy with her biographer about potentially becoming an actress in the previous scene.
La Verónica perhaps speaks more to the brilliant acting of Mariana Di Girólamo than the quality of writing. A fascinating character study that stunts its intriguing plot points at the expense of a creative technique that only limps through its run-time.
Director Leonardo Medel won the Rebel with a Cause Award for his work on La Verónica at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 2020.