Torrential rains that might have thrown even Noah for a loop aren’t enough to wash away the sins of overeating and under-eating in bold Mexican drama “Bad Habits.” Visually precise, well-cast debut from award-winning ad director Simon Bross has its moments of humor and irony but is mostly concerned with the ways in which eating disorders make daily life tough to swallow and reality hard to digest. Thinking man’s horror story should have a tasty future.
The connections among the main characters are presented in terse, visually arresting layers.
As a girl, Matilde had reason to believe she saved her father from choking on a fish bone by evoking the Lord’s Prayer. Once grown, Matilde (Jimena Ayala) pleases her parents by becoming a doctor and then chucks medicine to join a convent. By starving herself or only eating disgusting food, Matilde believes she can cure the sick and maybe even put a stop to the flooding that has killed hundreds.
Matilde is helping lovely young moon-faced Linda (Elisa Vicedo) study for her first communion. Linda is a bit of a butterball, but her mother Elena (Elena de Haro), a bony anorexic and obsessive workout addict, is in a constant state of panic over her only child’s pudginess.
Linda’s sole friend is an overweight boy her own age with a novel philosophy about outsmarting calories. Assuming her mother doesn’t love her, Linda makes some interesting choices late in the film.
Linda’s father, Gustavo (Marco Antonio Trevino), is a pleasingly plump architect. Gustavo cheats on his increasingly cranky spouse with a fleshy younger Peruvian woman who shares his hearty appetite for sex and caloric delicacies.
The pipes in a school building are leaking and Gustavo’s future commissions depend on determining why. After searching for an explanation for most of the film, the reason is a real doozie.
Mostly austere settings and constant downpour create a rewardingly claustrophobic mood, leavened by mystical visions. Thesps skillfully rep a range of body types and attitudes toward sustenance. Attitudes toward indulgence and deprivation ring true, with the religious approach to denial nicely juxtaposed against the anorexic’s urge to live a life of abnegation in the midst of plenty.