Have You Seen Lupita? (¿Alguien A Visto A Lupita?): Montreal Review

Semi-comic road movie starts with promise but veers down an unrewarding path

Chilean director Gonzalo Justiniano's film features one of the easiest illegal Mexico-to-U.S. border crossings in recent film history.

MONTREAL — A sort of holy-fool adventure that seems only to decide what it wants to be somewhere past its midpoint, Gonzalo Justiniano's Have You Seen Lupita? isn't as lucky in finding its way as its heroine, a not-all-there sweetie who every ten minutes escapes some kind of terrible fate. The pan-Latin production has meager prospects Stateside, though Spanish-language audiences might embrace it on a small scale.

Dulce María plays Lupita, an attractive young woman who (perhaps thanks to big brother Maxi's carelessness with his drug stash years ago) can't quite navigate the world without assistance. Pushed into institutionalizing her when their mother dies, Maxi (Cristián de la Fuente) soon has second thoughts, stupidly checking Lupita into a hotel with orders to stay put. Within hours she's on the run with his credit card.

The film's tone is essentially realistic in the first half, with Lupita narrowly escaping the lust and avarice of men who decide she's just too sweet to molest. Justiniano cuts back and forth between present-tense misadventures and the family politics that got Lupita here, suggesting a narrative in which the pieces currently on the table will eventually fit together. María offers a winning combination of guilelessness and sex appeal, and doesn't lean too heavily on the little girl act -- she always seems a tiny bit smarter than people believe, and we're eager to see how she'll pull this situation together.

But midway through, the pic takes a turn toward exaggerated satire, literally sending Lupita into a gunfight to rescue a child, with onlookers declaring immediately they've witnessed a saint in the making.

The script (penned by Justiniano and Marina Stavenhagen) does a clumsy job establishing the phenomenon that grows from this event forward, with a couple of unconvincing encounters leading to an even less credible quasi-religious stardom. More successful is the continuing presence of Chepita (Carmen Salinas), the sharp-tongued older woman who befriends Lupita on a bus and finds ways to thrive as things get weird.


Production Company: Sahara Films Cine Sur

Cast: Dulce María, Carmen Salinas, Cristián de la Fuente, Schlomit Baytelman, Angélica Castro

Director: Gonzalo Justiniano

Screenwriters: Gonzalo Justiniano, Marina Stavenhagen

Producers-Sales: Gonzalo Justiniano, Daniel de la Vega

Executive producers: Cristián de la Fuente, Diego Dubcovsky

Director of photography: Miguel Bunster

Music: Jorge Arriagada

Editor: Carolina Quevedo

No rating, 85 minutes