Last July, a daring commando raid freed Ingrid Betancourt, who six years earlier had been seized by rebels while campaigning for the presidency of Colombia. However Three-thousand other hostages still languish in captivity, and more than 70,000 lives have been lost in continuing violence wrought by rebels, soldiers, and vigilantes. Marketed as the first feature film about the Colombian troubles made in that unhappy South American country itself, La Milagrosa announces at the outset that it is “based on true facts.” Its fictional protagonist, Eduardo Martinez Villareal (Merlano), undergoes an ordeal that seems a composite drawn from more than 13,000 abductions during the past 20 years.
Intent on a year of adventure after dropping out of law school, Eduardo sets out on the open road. But, grabbed at a roadblock by guerrillas disguised as soldiers, he is abruptly wrenched from a life of privilege. He is marched through the jungle, beaten, and threatened. Though he is told, “God doesn’t believe in you or your family anymore,” Eduardo clings to the medallion given him by his grandmother, an emblem of La Virgen de la Milagrosa that provides the film with its title and its promise of miraculous deliverance. Though the film’s dramatic arc of abduction, captivity, and liberation holds few surprises, Mexican director Rafael Lara takes pains to humanize Eduardo’s tormentors, to provide motivations for their insurgency. “We’re revolutionary soldiers, not criminals,” insists one of the men, driven by desperation to insurrection. Some of the rebels are sadistic brutes, but Lara also provides a beautiful, compassionate captor, Mayra (Gómez), for Eduardo, and the viewer, to fall in love with. Though other prisoners lose their minds, Eduardo, who spends much of his time in agonizing solitude, never quite loses his hope or his capacity to learn from his experiences. A traumatized viewer of La Milagrosa learns to cherish the miracle of small comforts.