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TIFF 2021 ‘Lo Invisible’ Review: A Stifling Portrait of Postpartum Depression

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In the mountains of Ecuador, Luisa returns to a beautiful modernist home. It is covered in glass windows and hard-cut surfaces, reflections of movement bouncing off every wall. As she re-enters her house after being away for a month, she is greeted by her husband, maids, and her newborn baby. No one speaks to her about where she has been. When her baby begins to cry, her husband orders a maid to take it away. 

Javier Andrade’s Lo Invisible is a tightly constructed examination of a woman with postpartum depression. After being accused of trying to harm her baby, Luisa (Anahí Hoeneisen) is sent to a psychiatric hospital for a month before she can come home. Following her return, everyone around her acts as if nothing has happened, as if things are back to normal. Luisa attempts to play the part. She attends the parties that are thrown at her house and goes for runs. But when she moves to hold her baby, the reality of her situation cannot be ignored. She cannot comfort her child, appearing to be an effort for her, indicating that things will never be the same. 

Andrade’s script (co-written with Hoeneisen) is purposefully stripped. It focuses solely on Luisa’s experience instead of plot, resulting in an intimate examination of her mental state as it progressively deteriorates. Scenes act more like vignettes; not quite connecting to the prior one. They sequentially investigate different aspects of Luisa’s psyche while further revealing details about her circumstances before she left. The film isn’t focused on the details of what led to her postpartum depression, rather on the aftermath of it. Its loose structure creates a slow but unnerving portrait of Luisa, creating an insightful character study. 

The construction of the film does not leave a relaxing impression. Instead, it accomplishes the opposite.  The suffocation Luisa is feeling is intensified by her surroundings. Luisa is trapped inside her gorgeous home. It rests in the mountains surrounded by nature. Sound design filled with wind and insects does not result in a calming feeling, but an overwhelming awareness of how secluded she is. The house itself is made up of glass windows and many of the walls within the structure are also transparent. When she goes on runs to obtain privacy, her driver is instructed to follow her closely, assuring that she will not do anything harmful. There is nowhere for Luisa to hide, leaving her suffering out in the open for everyone to see. As scenes appear one after the other, this idea becomes more and more evident. 

Despite being physically exposed, Luisa’s problems are ignored or undermined at every turn. When she breaks down in front of her maid during a massage, the maid only tells her to be strong, then walks down the stairs as Luisa is left wailing in agony for the entire house to hear. In an attempt for connection, Luisa clings to her older son as he plays video games, but he pays little attention to her either. She is expected to readjust quickly, and she does act out those parts, but none of it feels real to her. Everything is false and she can’t seem to find the person she used to be. Her attempts to regain herself become increasingly erratic and harmful, but it is never enough. These instances, along with many others, help portray what Luisa is going through. However, the lack of disruption from this cycle can leave the film feeling stagnant. 

Lo Invisible’s structure can be an effort to invest yourself in. Separately, each scene can feel like just another breakdown. Once the pieces come together to a haunting finale, however, the ending result is impactful. Andrade’s restrained direction supports Hoeneisen’s raw and truthful performance, which elevates the sparse script into something much greater. The film’s fluid nature culminates into an intimate portrait, but there may be too much ambiguity due to the lack of plot. Although it might have done well to implement more of a structure, Lo Invisible remains a poignant account of a woman who desperately wants to be seen.  

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