"Lucía, Lucía" is a charming romantic fable that could have been even more so were it not so long-winded. Fox Searchlight should have applied a Miramax-style edit to bring out the full impact of the film's clever premise and beguiling cast. As it stands, it would seem writer-director Antonio Serrano was perhaps too faithful to the source, Rosa Montero's novel "La Hija del Caníbal."
Cecilia Roth's Lucía is an attractive redhead, maybe in her late 30s. She is a modestly successful writer of children's books and shares a comfortable but somewhat shabby apartment in a dingy side-street building in Mexico City with her husband of 12 years, a petty government bureaucrat. She has a story to tell and admits that as a writer she has a tendency to blur the line between fact and fiction.
What she has to tell, whether in flashback or fantasy, is pretty incredible. Lucía and her husband, Ramón (José Elías Moreno), are at the airport, soon to depart for Rio de Janeiro to celebrate New Year's Eve when Ramón goes to the men's room — and disappears. Ramón was apparently not what he seemed, and soon Lucía finds herself up to her neck in excitement and danger.
In her initial shock at her husband's inexplicable disappearance, Lucía finds comfort in two neighbors, Félix (Carlos Álvarez-Novoa), a gallant, white-bearded Don Quixote-like veteran of the Spanish Civil War, and Adrián (Kuno Becker), an angelic-looking young musician. The three bond like the Musketeers, and Lucía realizes just how bored she'd become with her husband. The trio is soon caught up in high adventure, and inevitably Lucía and Adrián are drawn into a romance.
For all we know, Lucía is coping with her husband walking out by spinning this elaborate tale to assuage her pride and to work her way toward acceptance of her new solitary state; she may know Félix and Adrián only by sight. Either way, "Lucía, Lucía" is an exhilarating celebration of the possibilities of love and friendship, and Lucía, Félix and Adrián could not be more likable.
While Roth (best known for Pedro Almodóvar's "All About My Mother"), Álvarez-Novoa and Becker are charismatic, they are asked to do unnecessary heavy lifting as the plot becomes protracted. Its convoluted workings become a commentary on the corruption in Mexico's government and the lack of opportunities for an oppressed middle class. These are points worth making, but more briefly.
With such appealing actors and a satisfyingly ambiguous conclusion — check out that snapshot on Lucía's wall — it's possible to overlook the windier aspect of "Lucía, Lucía." Serrano has a way with actors but has more to learn about sustaining pace and energy.
MPAA rating: R, for sexuality, language and brief drug use
Times guidelines: Adult themes, situations
Cecilia Roth ... Lucía
Carlos Álvarez-Novoa ... Félix
Kuno Becker ... Adrián
Javier Díaz Dueñas ... Inspector García
Margarita Isabel ... Lucía's mother
A Fox Searchlight Pictures and Conaculta, Foprociné, Instituto Mexicano de Cinemátografía and Fondo Ibermedia presentation of a Titan Producciones and Argos Comunicación Picture in co-production with Lola Films and Total Films. Writer-director Antonio Serrano. Based on the novel "La Hija del Caníbal" by Rosa Montero. Producers Epigmenio Ibarra, Carlos Payán, Christian Valdelièvre, Inna Payán, Matthias Ehrenberg. Cinematographer Xavier Pérez Grobet. Editor Jorge García. Music Nacho Mastretta. Art director Brigitte Broch. Set decorator Francisca Maira. In Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.
In general release.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times