CIFF Review: A Secret World


[Flixist will be attending the 48th Chicago International Film Festival over the next few weeks. Be sure to follow along as we bring you coverage from the longest-running competitive international film festival in the country. You can easily keep track of the coverage here.]

We all have our own coping mechanisms that help us get through our problems. Of course, some might partake in questionable methods (as I write this, I’ve had Lana del Rey’s Video Games on repeat for a couple of hours now). We all have our problems, but how we deal with them reflects our true character. From what I’ve seen in my two years of covering foreign films, a sizable amount of them tend to deal with sex… some more successfully/efficiently than others.

A Secret World is one such film where sex seems to be a pivotal theme.

Trailer for A Secret World

A Secret World (Un Mundo Secreto)
Director: Gabriel Mariño
Rating: TBD
Country: Mexico

Following her high school graduation, Maria (Lucia Uribe Bracho) decides to leave her hometown of Mexico City behind for something better. It’s easy, after all, as she’s a loner with a strained relationship with her Mother. More importantly, she’s racked with guilt over her sexual deviances. Will escaping from her hometown help her find what it is she’s looking for?

A Secret World is a road film, which allows the film to explore Maria’s internal conflict while also presenting new, fundamentally different characters along her journey. However, despite how different each character Maria comes across, she ultimately ends up concluding each encounter the same way: hitting it and quitting it (with the exception of the young Mother, of course).

Maria turns to sex as a means to communicate with people around her, yet writes self-deprecating messages to/about herself. By the end of the film, nothing is resolved. The last scene of the film closes on Uribe Bracho looking directly at the camera and smiling (which may or may not be the first instance of her smiling in the entire film). The lack of tying up the loose ends would normally bug me, but I felt at ease with it in this film. The ending leaves everything open for Maria and her social whims, which is a reflection of how life is (as cheesy as that sounds).

Cinematically, the film is mostly quiet with only a few minutes of dialogue stretched throughout the film. Further exemplifying Maria’s loneliness are a lot of wide angle shots to highlight her figure. The sex scenes are tastefully shot with little to no real skin showing. I don’t know what it is about this year’s festival, but a majority of the films I’ve screened have had ample sex in them. Sex sells, right guys?

A Secret World is what you’d expect from a coming of age road film… just with more sex than you’d expect. It could have expanded on the self-deprecation/discovery of its protagonist, but it instead decided to basically shuffle true character arc away for gorgeous shots. Like I said earlier, not every film has to answer or “fix” its character’s problems, but a little more in terms of character development wouldn’t have hurt.