Salomón spends his days caring for the locale, cleaning the property while smoking massive amounts of marijuana. This continuous pattern of labor eventually breaches the aimless wanderings of Luisa, a lonely resident with an unfortunate dependence on smack. A delicately-played bond quickly forms between the two, with Olaizola substituting laborious conversation for short, honest dialogues that display the amenity they find in one another. After Luisa's supply is nearly tapped out, she recruits her new buddy on a trip to the city but returns empty handed -- an event that helps ignite the desire to go clean. Salomón agrees to offer assistance, but the habit isn't so easy to kick.
Occasionally there are small diversions from the narrative, most of them centering around the three children that run around the complex. Thankfully they never feel like harsh breaks in the structure, and the innocence that these moments provide compliment the overall tone well. When these kids do find themselves interacting with Luisa, though, things get a bit more uneasy -- one scene has a little girl gnawing a lollipop while the elder addict freely partakes in her habit. This kind of idea is enormously fragile, as its core seems over-the-top, extreme, and too pathetic; yet somehow it works. Olaizola seems to be a pro in balancing these elements and, for a movie focusing on characters using drugs, the perspective is extremely neutral. Heroin is absolutely a destructive substance and the filmmaker isn't denying it, but she represents it with an invisible hand. In an age where drugs must be used as a device to tell a condescending moral tale, this approach is much more realistic.
Things close with some ambiguity, much to its benefit: we'd like to think Luisa will get clean but it's not that easy; who knows if she'll stay that way. Still, the filmmaker is optimistic without being naive or sentimental, closing with a folk song sung by Salomón himself. It's a proper finale for this kind of movie, not to mention uniquely moving. By following its own path, "Artificial Paradises" is a constantly pleasing experience, finding beauty in all of life's instances -- even the destructive. [A-]