Fausta (Magaly Solier) is afraid of the world; a legacy from her mom’s violent experience at the hands of Shining Path terrorists. When her mom dies, she wants to bury her mom in her birth village and not in her uncle’s backyard. Openly fearful of men and of being alone in public spaces, she must conquer her fears to properly lay her mom to rest. It’s her personal journey from fear to freedom.
Scarred by history, Fausta’s father was murdered by terrorists and her mother was raped multiple times while she was pregnant with Fausta. People believed trauma would be transferred to the child by the way of the mother’s milk, hence the term the milk of sorrow. Despite the world changing since that time, Fausta fears being abused from men. She takes the extreme measure of having a potato growing in her vagina. Hearing it from her mother about a neighbor how did the same thing and was still able to have children with her husband after the terrorists left.
The narrative of the milk of sorrow and the potato at first would cast this movie as perhaps a tragi-comedy or even an outright farce. Weird is the only way you describe having to clip a potato root from one’s vagina. That aside, it’s a deeply introspective movie about fear and the comfort of it. Changing even for the better can be hard to do, when all you’ve known is one thing. You see it in Fausta, finding comfort in holding her dead mother’s body rather than burying it.
The film constantly juxtaposes Fausta’s fear with images of marriages ceremonies and banquets. It’s a bit of a literal comparison and I’m not convinced it serves the film that well. That aside, the film works because of the acting by Solier. Despite her stunning beauty, she has to the ability to convey great sadness and fear through her piercing eyes. Sophomore director and writer Claudia Llosa has an assured hand in this film. She must be a fan of Solier as it’s her in second leading role.