Mercedes Burgos in Luján Loioco´s La niña de tacones amarillos.

By Pablo Suarez

La niña de tacones amarillos, the debut film of Argentine filmmaker Luján Loioco, is a true surprise among so many local films that lack an imprint of their own. Not that its plot is astonishing (it’s not) but rather because it’s down-to-earth and yet the delicacy and insight in how it is narrated make a substantial difference. With no stridence and no obvious observations, Loioco builds up a character study that has many layers which contrast with its deceptively simple façade.

The story takes place today in a very small town in the northeast of the country, where a big, classy hotel is being built in what constitutes a first for the locals. Isabel (Mercedes Burgos) is a teenage girl with a special allure. She doesn’t have the sort of striking beauty that most men fall for, but instead she’s seductive because her beauty is both natural and intriguing. Along with her somewhat bossy, yet very loving mother, she works on the hotel’s premises doing small jobs. It doesn’t take long for her to realize she’s the object of desire of many workers, particularly Miguel (Manuel Vignau), who certainly knows a trick or two to gain the girl’s attention.

It also helps that Isabel wants to have new experiences that can bring some excitement into her otherwise dull daily life. Smart and resourceful, she will get some of the things she wants thanks to her sex appeal, but unfortunately some other things she’s curious about will prove dangerous and, eventually, harmful.

Loioco discreetly observes how Lucía transforms from a girl into a woman via new sexual experiences that may first feel awkward, but then give way to unknown pleasures. With no judgmental gaze whatsoever, the filmmaker first addresses the surface of things only to further focus on the deeper feelings. To Lucía, sex is a means to enter a different world where she can stop being the young teenager always under her mom’s eye.

La niña de tacones amarillos is mainly a film about defining your identity as a more mature person. It’s about changes and movement, which it’s not to say that these transformations only bring satisfaction since the pains of growing up are also bound to surface at any time. A very unobtrusive camera, a languid and meditative atmosphere, and convincingly natural performances with Mercedes Burgos heading the list, are some of the most remarkable traits of an apparently small story that opts to use dialogue to convey what’s strictly necessary and then leaves unsaid that which matters the most. After all, most significant changes take place inside the heart and the soul so often the spoken word is not the best tool to account for them. Fleeting glances, gestures, silences and small talk are more likely to do the trick. And so do behaviour, actions and reactions. La niña de tacones amarillos is a perfect case in point.

Production notes
La niña de tacones amarillos (Argentina, 2015). Written and directed by Luján Loioco. With Mercedes Burgos, Manuel Vignau, María Fernanda Domínguez, Emiliana Di Pasquo. Cinematography: Martín Frías. Editing: Anita Remon. Running time: 74 minutes.