April’s Daughter (Michel Franco, 2017) Mexico

Reviewed by Michael G. Viewed at AFI Fest 2017.

Michel Franco’s thriller pulls through a slow and steady period of adjustment to a twisted drama/thriller that calls into attention a multitude of social issues and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The film follows the pregnancy and birth of  Valeria’s (played by Ana Valeria Becerril) daughter which quickly turns into an intense story of betrayal. Valeria’s mother (played by Emma Suárez) takes on the role of support for the pregnancy although her position in the family will soon take a dramatic shift. The movie twists and turns as we discover the true intentions of April.

We enter the film in the kitchen of a upper-middle class ocean front home as a woman is cutting vegetables calmly and repeatedly. This all is set bizarrely as we hear a couple having sex in the next room. The constant moaning is cut by the odd steadiness of the woman’s food preparation. As the women leaves to the balcony, we see Valeria come out of the room naked and as she moves past the counter we see that she is late in the stage of pregnancy. We are left wondering what the relationship between the women is and whether it is mother daughter.

The film slowly brings the viewer up to speed as we learn that the woman is Valeria’s sister Clara (played by Joanna Larequi), a quiet and non-expressive older sister that sits in stark contrast to the young and vibrant Valeria. After contemplating the circumstances, Clara invites their mother April to help  her sister through the pregnancy. Valeria’s fears about her mother’s acceptance of her pregnancy are quickly disposed as we see a family coming together through these important times.

The significance of the pregnancy in the film is the age of Valeria and her boyfriend Mateo (played by Enrique Arrizon). Both Valeria and Mateo are 17 years old and are depicted as immature and not emotionally ready to be able to handle the great responsibility of caring for a baby. Feeding into this, the film develops this as we see that Valieria’s mother is more of a mother to the newborn than her actual parents.

With no delay or transition, we are confronted with the reality that April has decided to give the baby up for adoption, a point ringing to the lack of control and legal rights these 17 year old parents have. Believing that the baby is gone for good, we soon learn that April did not exactly give away the baby, or give away her dreams of a youth of her own. April’s true intentions build into a terrifying betrayal which gets worse for every series of facts unfolds. This sets the viewer up for a ride of betrayal that reaches all the way to the core of the family.

Although the film developed into an interesting story of betrayal, the speed of the first half of the film felt at times stretched and unimportant. Some scenes felt disjointed or like space fillers rather than working to continue to develop the story. However, with patience comes reward as the characters are carefully crafted and shaped as we move to the end of the film.

A nice film that requires some patience but this will ultimately reward.

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