It's hard to watch Paulina without wishing for vengeance. The film concerns a woman (Dolores Fonzi) who suspends her legal education to become a civics teacher in a poor town on Argentina's border. With this setup, and an opening scene of tense conversation between Paulina and her father (Oscar Martinez) in which he decries her "romantic hippie fantasy," the story could take a familiar turn of principled defiance turning into victory, but Paulina purposefully subverts all expectations. Shortly after beginning her teaching job, Paulina is raped by a group of young men, including a couple of her students. The scene is challenging to watch, and so too is its aftermath. Paulina refuses to be a victim and doesn't want her attackers to be prosecuted.
More shocking still (yet underplayed), she becomes pregnant and refuses to get an abortion. While these decisions are all deeply personal, and Paulina's refusal to move fully toward tragedy or the violence of pulpy rape revenge is provocative, the film is ultimately frustrating for the unending opacity of Paulina's psychology. We don't know much about Paulina — her father sums it up best in a late scene: "You're obsessed with an incomprehensible crusade." Plainly, she tells him, "Being a victim doesn't help me." To hear a woman who has been raped utter these words does have some power, as the longstanding narrative of victimhood remains deeply problematic. At the same time, Paulina doesn't seem to help herself, either. As the end credits roll, the camera follows her as she walks forward, in close-up. But we're no closer to this enigmatic, passive yet oddly defiant woman than we were when the film started.
Santiago MitreDolores Fonzi, Oscar Martinez, Esteban Lamothe, Cristian SalgueroSantiago Mitre, Mariano LlinasCinema Slate