Veronica is an example of a titling oversight gone right. I went into Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran‘s film expecting a Ouija board shocker from [REC] director Paco Plaza. But, no, that’s Veronica… wait, what? Two genre films from Spanish-language directors both titled Veronica and both, at the time of writing, sitting at 7.2 on IMDb: it’s an accident waiting to happen. This Veronica might not offer quite as many jumps and jolts as Plaza‘s film, but it is a well-crafted and snappy psychosexual thriller.
When an old colleague contacts a retired psychologist (Arcelia Ramírez) about possibly taking on a tricky new case, her intrigue (and a substantial pay check) pulls her back into the old mind games. Her assignment is Veronica (Olga Segura), who moves into her isolated mountain cabin to ensure total immersion in the therapy. The doctor is taken aback by Veronica’s bolshie attitude and sexuality but starts to make inroads when discussing her family and a particular nightly dream of hers. She theorizes that some kind of trauma from her past has caused Veronica’s dark relationship with sex. Finding out what that trauma is becomes Veronica’s central mystery.
The film is lensed in attractive black and white, with a camera that enacts a carefully considered dance around the two women. The visual storytelling, and a camera that swings between participation and voyeurism harken back to De Palma’s psychosexual fascinations, and Hitchcock’s before him. As do the manner of the story’s twists and turns. Though, for all the visual tricks, this is a very talky film. The psychologist and Veronica are the only characters on screen for the entire film, excluding some flashbacks, so their conversations and verbal battles dominate the drama.
The two women perform the power struggle well, as Veronica quickly starts to ask questions of her own and test the doctor‘s influence over her. But watching the psychologist defy her growing paranoia to hit back and start picking away at the scabs of Veronica’s past is particularly thrilling, notably in a breathless word association scene. Veronica is a quiet film, for the most part, but it’s very well paced and has a dark sinewy heart that’s explored in painful detail. It may not have been what I expected, but Veronica felt all the more surprising for that.