A young woman descends into the vacuum of mental illness in “Wounded,” a claustrophobic, unsatisfying debut feature from noted editor Fernando Franco. Designed to highlight the lonely paranoia that can come from undiagnosed borderline personality disorder (BPD), the film frustratingly withholds vast amounts of information, and then beggars belief by imagining that not one person would intervene when confronted with her obvious crack-up. Marian Alvarez’s fine performance (which earned her an actress award at San Sebastian) miraculously finds moments in which to make her character likable, but otherwise, “Wounded” was an odd choice for the festival’s special jury prize. Anemic fest play is likely.
It can’t be just the camera that notices ambulance worker Ana (Alvarez) is struggling: She’s edgy with everyone but her patients, given to mood swings and hyperventilation, yet not even Jaime (Manolo Solo), her colleague of four years, notices anything is amiss. The 26-year-old lives with her mother (Rosana Pastor) but rarely communicates with her bewildered parent, instead spending home hours messaging a guy with whom she seems to have a tentative suicide pact.
She’s also been cutting herself with razors and burning her flesh with cigarettes. Such actions are painful to watch, and Ana goes to some lengths to ensure the scars aren’t seen. However, when her mother walks into the bathroom and sees her daughter’s naked body, she merely looks startled and awkwardly backs away, with no follow-up. Later Ana accuses her mother of cowardice, but such disengagement goes beyond all credibility.
Telephone fights with her boyfriend Alex (Andres Gertrudix), via blistering, obsessive calls, send her further into a tailspin, not helped by cocaine and liquor consumption. By now Ana’s jitteriness has reached critical level, and she’s mired in lies, misunderstandings and false memories. Things don’t go well when she attends her father’s second wedding, leading to an unexpected sudden flash-forward by at least six months, during which time there’s a possible implication that she’s being treated. Any relief is temporary.
Franco’s conception of the isolation felt by people with severe mental illness rings true, and his cataloguing of the disturbing symptoms will be familiar to many health providers, which is one of the reasons why it doesn’t quite make sense that Ana works in an allied profession, yet no one notices her deterioration. Granted, she’s able to pull herself together around clients (she transfers patients to regular appointments), so there are moments of projected normality, and her warmth and consideration at these moments are notable. However, she’s incapable of controlling herself in any other situation. BPD itself is never mentioned; nor is any diagnosis, since Ana apparently hasn’t the wherewithal to have herself checked.
That Alvarez manages to mine brief moments of relaxed fellow feeling and make Ana sympathetic is something of a miracle, testifying more to the actress’ considerable talent than to the script’s honesty. Stylistically the film holds interest, thanks to Franco’s conception of a closed-in world visualized by tight shots hemming Ana in from all sides. Early visuals following her from behind, with the camera violently jiggling up and down with her footfalls, eventually subside as Ana’s emotional upheavals take center stage.