FILM: La Nina Santa (15) Lucrecia Martel iii88

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The Independent Culture
Lucrecia Martel's second feature, following La Cienaga, is a thoughtful and unsettling brew of religious devotion, adolescent yearning and twisted sexuality.

Sixteen-year-old Argentine schoolgirl Amalia (Maria Alche) lives with her mother Helena (Mercedes Moran) in a shabby hotel, where a medical conference is just beginning. When one of the doctors (Carlos Belloso) presses himself against her, Amalia believes she has found her mission: to save the man from sin. There are echoes of Nabokov's Humbert Humbert in the doctor's plight, though Martel concentrates most of the psychology on the girl, played with great natural authority by Maria Alche.

The atmosphere of humid decay is finely conjured, and the intimation of lives heading towards calamity is expertly sustained, even if the ending pulls up a scene or two short.