While no longer in theaters, this film will certainly remain in our minds for a while. En el nombre de la hija, set in the Yunguilla valley in the summer of 1974, is a moderately charming story of self-discovery.
Manuela (Eva Mayu Mecham), the daughter of a couple of atheist Marxists, is taken with her brother Camilo (Marcus Mecham) to her grandparents’ rural residence while her dad (a physician) cures the diseased in a foreign country.
Adapting to the traditionalist lifestyle of their older relatives was hard enough, but dealing with the cookie-cutter antics of their cousins (who were also left for the summer there) is hard for both, but especially for Manuela. Her cousins ostracize her for being so tomboyish, which drives her to befriend Piojo, the son of the indigenous family working for her grandparents without pay and work for the family product of the latifundio. This friendship does not only annoy her relatives because of the lower social standing of Piojo, but her reactionary grandparents are alarmed by this. Climatic scenes result from this situation, depicting racism and misogyny that is so deeply embroiled in Ecuadorian society.
Among her endeavors typical to childhood, Manuela finds a hidden room in the country estate—the one of her long-forgotten uncle Felipe, a mystic erudite who resembles caveman and is far more than insane. With him she finds comfort, but the supernatural uncle helps her discover who she truly is, while teaching her that a name is more than just letters put together.
Eva Mayu Mecham’s (Manuela) performance borders dullness, but is certainly good for someone new to the industry. While at times seemingly too mature for her age, such as when she refuses baptism only because it goes against her principles, Manuela is sometimes just too patronizing and generally unlikable. The director fails to help deliver a character with whom the audience can identify with. She never smiles, and almost certainly neither will you.
The same applies to the other kids. While some are better than others, they all deliver unpolished characters—perhaps the one to blame is Hermidia, but one can certainly tell that they lack what is needed for stellar performances.
Out of all the adult characters—who give average to lame performances—Felipe, the crazy hermit uncle, stands out. His eccentricity and rustic physique do leave a lasting image.
What I disliked was the flatness of the characters. Nobody really changes and all remains static throughout the story. So much more could be done, but Hermidia didn’t take advantage of the possibilities and presents the audience a half-cooked dish.
Don’t expect to be surprised by sudden and interesting plot twists, but rather expect pensive and thoughtful moments overcharged with symbolism. Perhaps the only time when the audience receives climatic tension is when Manuela’s beliefs clash with those of her relatives, but this ultimately leads the plot nowhere.
Just like her previous film, Que tan lejos, Hermidia develops the same bland theme of self-discovery. Potentially, the only discovery you will find while watching the film is that you would have rater done something less boring and more… fulfilling—like getting cheesecake, so to speak.
This film does not linger in your mind for its greatness, but rather for its lack thereof. So much could be obtained from the plot, but maybe Hermidia, as a director and writer, failed to take advantage of her own creation.