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by Jonathan Moya
Plot via Sundance:
After years of remission, Noelia’s cancer has returned and is spreading quickly. Exhausted by relentless treatment plans and pills that do more harm than good, she seeks another way out. Brushing aside her boyfriend Jorge’s well-meaning but suffocating gestures, she heads back to Vieques, the blissful eastern Puerto Rican island where she grew up; a land grappling with its own poisoning after decades of contamination from U.S. Army operations. With Hurricane Irma closing in, and alongside her mother in the serene comforts of home, Noelia looks for an answer to her pain in the land she’s always been intertwined with.
Having lived through and overcoming colon cancer, I can understand the wanting to quit and just pass away, free yourself of the pain, the radiation, the drugs and the chemotherapy. It. was my first and hopefully only encounter with the big C. Like many others, I made a promise to myself, that I would seriously consider not doing treatment should it reoccur. I hope I never have to face that choice.
Based on my experience, the technical part of dealing with ostomy bags, stoma maintenance, the nausea, the need to be in bed just to steady yourself, to escape the pain is very accurate.
So too is the attitude of the love ones who urge you to keep on fighting, doing the treatment even though there is no will or fight left. Their disbelief that he/she can no longer do it for them anymore. I saw it in the pale faces and bodies in the treatment room. It was heartbreaking and it was real.
Sanchez fills the story with slight magical-realism nods.
Hurricane Irma threatens to come, bringing a lot of dread, threaten destruction that is heard and talked about. Ultimately, Irma settles down to be a metaphor for the swirling emotional winds brewing in all the characters.
They also live in Vieques, long a testing area for American naval ordinance. Another metaphor for the unexplored bombs threatening to blow them and Noelia apart.
The facts show the destruction will come. The director just spares the audience from seeing it. La Pecera is not about the fear of death. It’s about the courage that is needed to face it.
Gloria returning home is both a gift and a curse. Facing family members that expect a miracle to come is heartbreaking. Noelia face and body movement is filled with death as inevitable fact. A portrait of despair amidst acceptance of the death metaphors that must play out to be her story. The fishbowl that encloses and settles in every one’s memories.
La Pecera gets a 4 out of 5 or an A-.