Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

When released in Mexico, writer-director Antonio Serrano’s Lucía Lucía was called The Daughter of the Cannibal, which is livelier if no more helpful than the bland American title. The cannibal business, it turns out, is a mere footnote. As long as the movie’s title is in play, though, let’s suggest another one, with apologies to Life Is a Novel, one of Alain Resnais’ lesser-known works: Life Is a Telenovela. Serrano’s overstuffed but underwhelming film is fundamentally a soap opera, but with an intermittently postmodern attitude toward narrative that suggests Resnais. When her husband disappears at the airport just before their New Year’s trip to Brazil, Mexican housewife Lucía (All About My Mother star Cecilia Roth) sets out to find him and instead stumbles upon her submerged self. A middle-aged woman’s self-discovery is a venerable theme in middle-class women’s fiction, but Serrano, adapting a novel by Rosa Montero, folds a possible kidnapping, government corruption, arms running, revolutionary guerrilla movements, and other thriller fodder into the mix, too. The movie also takes Lucía, a sometime children’s-book writer, as its narrator, and soon reveals that she’s inclined to glamorize her story. Lucía stops the action occasionally to admit that she’s altered her appearance, overstated the elegance of her apartment, or over-romanticized her relationship with one of the two admirers helping with her search: Spanish Civil War veteran Félix (Carlos Alvarez Novoa) and earnest young violinist Adrián (Kuno Becker). As in a dramatic serial, the complications just keep coming, although Lucía’s adventures are more self-consciously wacky than those common to daytime TV: She delivers a ransom payment in a gay-porn theater, line-dances to a Spanish version of “Achy Breaky Heart,” and repeatedly communes with chickens. When one scene founders, the director simply summons an earthquake to end it. Bold colors and a hyperactive camera emphasize the film’s artifice, yet Lucía Lucía just isn’t as liberating as its playful style promises. Ultimately, all the zany asides and quasi-political subplots leave Lucía roughly where she would have been without them. —Mark Jenkins