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‘Receta No Incluída’ and Puerto Rico’s Mental Health Crisis (REVIEW)

Receta No Incluída, or Without Prescription, had its world premiere at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival back in March of 2022. The feature won the festival’s Audience Award, and there’s no doubt that the honor is well-deserved.

Directed by Juliana Maité, Receta No Incluída explores the life of Olivia (Marietere Vélez), who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In the film, Olivia’s OCD manifests as a voice in her head that compels her to brush her teeth constantly. While this voice had been silent for over a year, it returns during the holidays and begs her to listen. Olivia falls back on Jessica (Mariana Monclova) for help. She’s an old…acquaintance, one who helps her get medication – albeit through a non-traditional route. 

Olivia has employment, despite what her mother, Maite (Carola García), might have you believe. Despite this, Olivia’s part-time job as a teacher means she doesn’t qualify for health insurance. And she can’t afford therapy or the medication she so desperately wants. This leads Olivia to cross paths with David (Gabriel Leyva). He’s the son of the owner of the pharmacy where Olivia goes to request pills on the side, per Jessica’s recommendation. 

Receta No Incluída
Marietere Vélez in Receta No Incluída (COURTESY: Receta No Incluída)

Set against the backdrop of the Puerto Rican countryside, Maité and Vélez explore the discourse of multiple topics that plague the island. This exploration, woven seamlessly throughout the narrative, allows us to take in commentary about not only mental health, but the working class’ mass exodus in search of opportunity and stability in the States. Through David and Olivia’s stories, Receta No Incluída also analyzes the mental health struggles that both men and women face. Even the film’s dialogue (especially Olivia’s) begs for the inclusion of non-binary Puerto Ricans in the conversation: this inclusion helps us recognize that the health system often neglects queer issues.

While some people might find a woman constantly spitting and brushing her teeth unappealing, Marietere Vélez considers it an opportunity. Serving as both the protagonist and the film’s screenwriter, Vélez dives deep into Olivia’s psyche. Inspired by her own experiences with the disorder, Receta no Incluída is a shush to criticism of what a woman should be in a patriarchal society like Puerto Rico – and, specifically, one that loses women to gender violence at an alarming rate. The film also tackles patriarchal stereotypes of what women should represent and how they should go about their lives.

Receta No Incluída
Gabriel Leyva and Marietere Vélez in Receta No Incluída (COURTESY: Receta No Incluída)

Vélez and Leyva’s performances capture the fragility of the human spirit; Receta no Incluída balances it with our capability for strength and resilience. As Olivia and David’s stories meet and crash within their individual trajectories, there’s an unraveling of two people simply trying to survive. They are, without a doubt, the heart and soul of the film.

The newest addition to Puerto Rico’s filmography dares to paint a story that is so human it’s both intimate in nature and explosive in its commentary. It’s never afraid to take you through Olivia’s mind while also allowing space for her to breathe as a character and exist as a person, not a spectacle. This is why it’s an unforgettable hit.

Rating: 8/10

Receta No Incluída had its world premiere at SXSW. It is currently playing in theaters in Puerto Rico.

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