The Milk of Sorrow
Directed by Claudia Llosa
The Golden Berlin Bear-winning, Oscar-nominated Milk of Sorrow follows Fausta (Magaly Solier), a young woman timidly venturing out into the world following the death of her mother. The Peruvian film has a hook that's rooted in that country's Andean folkways but still universally understandable, as evidenced by the international plaudits: Fausta, prone to mysterious spells of fainting and bleeding, has long since planted a tuber in her vagina—"A potato, to be exact," a doctor says matter-of-factly—to guard against any unwanted advances. The war is over, everyone seems to hint to Fausta as her cousin prepares to marry in an fringes-of-Lima shantytown, but her body still bears the indirect trauma of the Shining Path, whose adherents raped her mother while she was pregnant and forced her to endure further torture. Fausta's family believes her permanent diffidence to be a disease transmitted through her mother's breast milk, which is where the film gets its title.
The grotesque details above might indicate a cinema of shocks rather than a quiet, interior drama, but writer-director Claudia Llosa's assured second feature is about the difficult work of moving on, not dwelling on the horrors of the past. There are several dryly funny moments here as well, mostly concerning the umpteen ritual celebrations surrounding the wedding. The indignities Fausta endures at the hand of her employer, a wealthy composer whom she goes to work for in order to pay for her mother's proper burial, suggest a society continuing to take advantage of its most disadvantaged elements, but Llosa ends her elusive film hopefully, with a moving gesture of friendship.
Opens August 27