Perdida movie review: Starved of imagination, Netflix's Argentine original is uncommunicative

Anupam Kant Verma

Aug,12 2018 15:17:36 IST

1.5/5

Perdida represents all that can go horribly wrong with a promising Netflix original film. An Argentine production, it is based on a well known novel, Cornelia. Although I haven’t read it, the little sparks of narrative promise — that occasionally reared its head in the film — hint at a decent literary work. The laziness that infects Perdida leaves you with ample room to ponder over where it all went wrong. There are shards of a good tale here, one tackling the rampant malaise of human trafficking and even offering a few moments that could have been exploited for genuine emotional conflict. Thoroughly let down by its editing and direction, Perdida’s wobbly storytelling gradually escalates into a full blown trainwreck that isn’t fascinating to behold.

Perdida poster. Image from Twitter/@theStevilDead

Perdida poster. Image from Twitter/@theStevilDead

Pipa is a young woman haunted by the disappearance of her best friend Cornelia during their teenage years. Now a policewoman, she is beseeched by Cornelia’s mother to look into the case once again. Against the wishes of her superiors and well wishers, she decides to plunge into the past once again only to run headlong into a human trafficking ring that could be connected to the disappearance. Gradually, a cast of characters from her teenage begins to populate the narrative as we descend into a final showdown with the shadow of her past.

Perdida translates to 'lost' from Spanish. And Pipa has lost not only a friend but her sense of self as well. She is shown wrestling with the ghost of Cornelia in every single case involving a missing person. Predictably, she can’t help but get personal while working these cases. This is a constant headache for her co-workers and Ramon, her boss. The emotional toll that the past and every single one of these cases takes on her runs the narrative down to the ground. The multiple strands become increasingly difficult for the director to juggle, notably after the introduction of the human trafficking angle. Character after character walks in and out of the frame, thoroughly content with being a pale imitation of characters you must have seen in other, greater films. That, in sum, is the biggest issue with Perdida. It appears so heavily doped up on the films it reveres that it loses all sense of self. It gets lost.

Once it gets lost, stripped of its identity, it becomes confused about what it wants to be. It fails to generate even an iota of emotional impact. Frame after sterile frame is wasted on Pipa’s face that tries hard to communicate a range of emotional states. But the director never appears fully invested in the possibility of a character study of his protagonist. Instead, he piles on the clichés borrowed from other films to bury any chance of empathising with the characters. Most of the actors sleepwalk through their roles. Where they make an effort, the writing is so drab that they can’t help turning into poor caricatures. The situation is worsened by the arrival of the de rigeur twists in the tale. Not only can you see them approaching from a mile away, their eventual execution is near laughable, lacking any sense of urgency or importance. Oh and there is exposition; a lot of it. The viewer must know everything.

Perdida is supposedly a mystery-thriller. The genre is usually expected to keep the viewer itching to know what the next scene holds till the core mystery is unraveled in the finale and more often than not, successfully resolved. Now Pipa is still reeling under the effects of the disappearance of her best friend. But the director fails to communicate the intensity of their relationship, which ought to be the driving force of the film. Everything else suffers as a result. The callously conjured atmosphere, which is further let down by an omnipresent, sombre score—that drones on an on needlessly—keeps us at a frustrating distance from the characters. Not an ounce of feeling is called up. You are simply not interested in whatever happens next, primarily because the present is as stiff and uncommunicative as a corpse.

Long story short, Perdida is crying out loud for more accomplished creative personnel at its helm. Starved of imagination, it wanders like a remarkably unthreatening cloud whose presence you’d be forgiven not to notice. The Argentine film industry has been pushing forward some memorable films. Unfortunately for Netflix, this isn’t one of them.

Updated Date: Aug 12, 2018 15:17 PM