Despite how much social media is seemingly at the center of our lives, there are still only precious few good movies about the subject. What is it that makes it so hard to capture? Is the shallowness of influencer culture simply too shallow to captivate? Or is it just such low-hanging fruit to roast teenagers from SoCal for dancing on TikTok that talented filmmakers stay away entirely? With every year that passes, Ingrid Goes West looks more like a classic — its exploration of the narcissism and common neuroses inherent to social media platforms is as incisive as it is cynical. Leonardo Medel’s La Verónica similarly captures the disconnect between the offline and online self, only in this case, the titular influencer (Mariana Di Girólamo) never leaves the center of the screen.
The central conceit of La Verónica is bound to dominate the discourse surrounding it. Medel keeps Di Girólamo in the center of the screen in profile picture framing for the entire runtime, stringing together match cut after match cut to move from one sequence to the next. One minute, Verónica is taking selfies by the pool. The next, she’s interrogated by a prosecutor regarding the murky details surrounding her first child’s death. Medel could have gone one step further and shot Mariana Di Girólamo in portrait mode, but doing so would blur how Verónica interacts with the characters on the periphery, a vital factor in interrogating her psyche.
What’s immediately clear is that Verónica lives a life entirely of privilege. She’s the influencer wife to her football star husband Javier (Ariel Mateluna), and is desperately attempting to amass two million Instagram followers so she can be the face of a makeup brand. And while La Verónica does stop to point out how absurd the title character’s behavior is (some of her decisions are so airheaded that you might get secondhand embarrassment), its structure — which essentially allows for one long monologue after the next — makes for a surprisingly nuanced character study of a person who is riddled with contradictions. Verónica claims to have genuine affection for children, but seems to hate her own. She also cares deeply for her mother, husband, and others around her, but is a self-absorbed sociopath. She even wants to use her following to be an agent of change, but can’t help but make herself the center of attention. The distance between those extremes widens as her desire for more IG followers grows.
Between Ema and La Verónica, Mariana Di Girólamo is quickly becoming an actress to watch. Very few actresses could convincingly pull off what she does here. After all, she’s literally in the middle of the frame for one hundred minutes. She knows exactly when to poke fun at her character, but can still rope you back in with a mesmerizing speech. Everything about her is compelling. From watching her, you can totally see why people become so fascinated with influencers like Verónica.
For more information on La Verónica and other films playing at the Melbourne International Film Festival, check out their website.
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