Basque filmmaker Julio Medem has merged the sensual with the metaphysical to haunting if not always satisfying effect in the likes of Lovers of the Arctic Circle, but the title of his latest suggests he’s moving in the direction of heavy breathing rather than heavy ideas. The sex is graphic and plentiful, but the thought behind it is less than lucid.
Never one for straightforward narrative, Medem opens his tale in medias res with the Madrid waitress of the title (Paz Vega) learning that her estranged boyfriend, Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa), a struggling writer, has been in an accident. Unwilling to hear the worst, she flees to the island that was the setting of one of his stories and promptly falls into a cave. From that rabbit hole the story takes off in various directions, with flashbacks and fantasies and fantasies within flashbacks and contrived plot devices, almost all of which end up with people naked and having inappropriate sex. What is real? What is make-believe? (Hint: the latter is usually accompanied by Lorenzo’s purple prose in voiceover or on a computer screen.) It doesn’t matter. At times the polymorphously perverse storytelling exhilarates like the fictions of Italo Calvino or Julio Cortázar, and the beautifully photographed bodies and landscapes have an overripe appeal, but long before the end (or is it the beginning?), Sex and Lucía takes on the weariness of a generic exercise. In Spanish with English subtitles. (128 minutes)