(Written by Allison Brown)
Lo Invisible is a singular portrayal of how upper-class families neglect their relatives afflicted with postpartum depression. It is a rich study of the tender relationships an individual can form with “the help” while growing up under a sheltered life, and juxtaposes the duality of luxury with familial disinterest. Anahí Hoeneisen shines as the lead, Luisa; she also wrote the film with director Javier Andrade. Despite some of the ensemble cast being first-time actors, there is overwhelming talent visible in their performances.
After a three-month stint in a mental facility, Luisa returns home and has very little time before preened as presentable. She notices grey hair at her roots, and in the next scene, a hair stylist is brought to the home to dye and mask her flaws. Mere days following her arrival, she is forced to participate in the social affairs of her upper-echelon family. She is introduced to an array of shallow partygoers, and must fake her outward appearance and explain away her absence. Eventually, Luisa escapes with her friend, Pilar (Cristina Marchán), and is provided a key to the wine cellar by her nanny, Rosa (Matilde Lagos). She made Rosa promise to withhold the key but convinces her to hand it over. Luisa is on psychiatric medication that requires her to avoid alcohol, yet she drinks to levels of excess. Pilar promises to be there for her and offers to listen to her plight. However, she only cares for her when they are having a good time, and quickly abandons her once her true illness is laid bare.
Luisa has seemingly still not recovered whatsoever; she puts on a show for everyone aside from her staff and nuclear family. Behind the scenes, there is persistent physical self-harm in the form of cutting, alcoholism, and digging her nails into her leg. Her teenage son, Miguel (Pablo Terán), is exposed to much more pain than he should be at his age. In one scene, Luisa is such a mess after her husband, Alfonso (Juan Lorenzo Barragán), and Miguel help her to bed that she unknowingly starts undressing while Miguel is still in the room. This moment is sure to be scarring for any teenage boy.
The title, Lo Invisible, says it all in describing our titular character. Luisa spends a lot of time peering blankly out the large glass windows to the view outside. The windows require a lot of maintenance to stay in a presentable, tip top shape, not unlike Luisa with her depressive episodes; they serve as a metaphor for Luisa’s outward appearance, while equally being literally invisible. She is unseen within her family, and strongly relates to the plight of the household workers that have been a part of her family for generations. Her husband may have been up to no good while she was away, and it clearly gets to her. In my favorite scene, Luisa recounts each member of her staff’s years of service, age, as well as all the hard work they do that goes unnoticed to her son’s piano teacher, Dani (Paola Navarrete), who may have been part of shady behavior done behind Luisa’s back. Rosa’s story especially was heartbreaking; apparently, her mother renamed her so that she wouldn’t share a name with Luisa’s mother, Marina. Luisa did not uncover the truth until she was thirty! Her drivers who double as security, Milton (Gerson Guerra) and Manuel (Marco Villacís), and Rosa seems to care for her, and sympathize with her depression more than her husband and child. It is a sad sight to behold.
Repetition is offered in the sound design from Juan Jose Luzuriaga, with perpetual noises of heavy breathing and the baby crying to hold the audience on a constant anxious edge parallel to Luisa’s emotional experience. These shrills sounds are juxtaposed with long moments of silence. It took about eight minutes before the first words of the film were finally uttered. Shots of the back of Luisa’s head also help to put the audience in her shoes. Andrade utilizes subtlety of action in developing his narrative. Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it feels too slow. Despite its brief runtime, the pace of the film definitely lags, which takes away from the narrative. Overall, I enjoyed Lo Invisible more than I expected to, but the director focused too much on scenery over developing the script.
Lo Invisible had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto Film Festival.