by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD
I need to begin this review with a disclaimer: this film is disturbing, both because stirs up the deep prejudice about the body dysmorphia we call obesity and because of its plot complexities. It is troubling in a third way as well. It combines acting so convincing that it has a documentary feel, and loose ends that belie the extraordinarily artful mashup of humor, pathos, bildungsroman and gore.
This 2022 film, now showing at theaters, is also available on Amazon Prime and other streaming services. It is an expansion of a short film with the same title released a few years earlier, both versions written and directed by Carlota Pereda and filmed in northern Spain. The original won several awards, which doubtless contributed to Pereda’s decision to prepare this one, her major film debut. English subtitles with speakers’ identification that sometimes obscure the text is one of the rough edges that, along with loose ends in the plotting, sometimes suggest an amateurish documentary. But Laura Galán’s stunning capture of young Sara’s rage and shame about her dysmorphia and her world’s reaction to it is award-worthy. One forgets that she is playing a role—and maybe the documentary feel is intentional. Her parents, played by Carmen Manchi and Julian Valcárcel are also outstanding.
The movie opens with unsettling clips of the butcher shop operations of Sara’s family’s business, a foreshadowing of the Stephen King like elements later in the movie. The plot line is this. Sara, while trying to take advantage of a swimming opportunity, is subjected to cruel teasing about her fatness by her peers. She becomes involved in a murder scene and subsequent serial abductions. The outcome, after a series of genuinely startling turns that I will not reveal, has a rom com element that seemed surprisingly flat after the wrenching jolts that preceded it.
Do I recommend the film? I was impressed and a bit shaken by it, an unusual reaction to a film for me. If you are open to such an experience, take a deep breath and prepare to be troubled and surprised.