The mark of good storytelling and filmmaking is the ability to convey a truth so well that impacts your audience. It doesn’t have to be a great truth, but it does need to ring with believability.
Inercia, the 2013 debut feature by Isabel Muñoz Cota Callejas, tells the truth about when we stop moving for the good of ourselves and get trapped in the trajectory of others. Lucía (Maricela Peñalosa) is a sweet professional woman who appears to be confident and content with her life. While waiting for her friend at the hospital she overhears a familiar name; as it turns out her ex-lover from 12 years prior, Felipe (Flavio Medina), is a patient in the same hospital. She makes the decision to stop by his room for a visit and all is pleasant in the beginning as she plays his nurse and he becomes dependent on her presence.
The performances by Peñalosa and Medina are flawless in this film. Medina’s erratic shifts from content and considerate to selfish and hateful fly so easily that it’s easy to know why Lucía needs so much better for herself. Peñalosa eager selflessness and excitement at the thought of her last great love radiates from her skin. When she displays hurt and disappointment, it comes out so fluidly from her eyes and mouth that one can absorb her pain simply by watching. And as an audience member, you will want to.
Watching these two in a single hospital room (the swankiest hospital room I’ve ever seen, by the way) is both enticing and suffocating as they experience each other at their best and worst 12 years after saying good bye the first time. The cinematography really lends itself to creating a sense of distance and space but also a dire closeness between the two leads. The best scenes, however, are of Lucía by herself contemplating her next move, whether that is sitting in a hallway or staring at her phone. My personal favorite was a single shot of her standing in front of an automatic sliding door; she remains stationary and struggling, while the door just opens and closes in spite of her.
Callejas’ story and direction clearly present a truth: you cannot give up all of yourself for the sake of someone else and expect it to be a healthy relationship. The thematic idea of inertia (the resistance of an object to change its state of motion) as a way of how we live our lives is powerful, thought provoking, and prominent in this film. I dare you to not contemplate your past and present relationships in the mirror that is Inercia.
Inercia can be seen at the Cinequest film festival in San Jose, CA at Camera 12 on Mar 7th at 5:00pm, Mar 10th at 5:15pm, Mar 13th at 9:30pm, and Mar 15th at 4:15pm. For more information, visit www.cinequest.org.