In 1982 Peru, a sheltered young girl with a morbid imagination acts out her anxiety over the impending birth of a baby brother in the atmospheric, death-haunted “Bad Intentions.” Offering more to admire than engage, the pic is more likely to be appreciated by adults than kids. Stylistically, debuting feature director Rosario Garcia-Montero seems influenced by Argentine auteur Lucrecia Martel, with realist, claustrophobic slice-of-life visuals that offer viewers only sparse background information and few emotional hooks. Despite an unsympathetic protagonist and protracted running time, the pic marks Garcia-Montero as an up-and-coming talent, and should find further fest support.
Willful 9-year-old asthmatic Cayetana (Fatima Buntinx) leads a privileged existence under the care of uniformed servants in a secluded modern mansion owned by her stepfather (Paul Vega) about two hours from Lima. Even so, the national turmoil of the times penetrates her consciousness through bomb threats at school, spray-painted slogans and symbols on the dusty village walls, and ominous newscasts about terrorists.
But self-involved Cayetana is preoccupied with her distant, valium-popping, pregnant mother (Katerina D’Onofrio), believing that she herself will die when her brother is born. In the meantime, she behaves in an abominable manner, even allowing a servant to be dismissed because of money she herself stole.
Garcia-Montero creates an atmosphere of foreboding through the terrorist threat, dead animals and sick and aging relatives. She also uses Cayetana’s obsession with the ill-fated heroes of her country’s past, allowing them to appear to her during her loneliest moments, but this fantasy isn’t very well integrated, and if further developed might have taken the film in a completely different direction.
Shot in a desaturated palette that allows the burnt umber color of spilled blood to pop, the widescreen lensing of Rodrigo Pulpeiro on a Red One camera probes unsettlingly close to the characters. However, the moody cutting of Rosario Suarez feels arranged according to some dream logic rather than narrative continuity. Likewise, the lightly used, generically sentimental score seems more appropriate to another film; the death march playing under the end credits more aptly captures the “Bad Intentions” zeitgeist.