“Leonor Will Never Die”
Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10)
For creative types (especially writers), sometimes it’s all too easy for the lines between reality and their work to become blurred. Where does one leave off and the other begin? Indeed, can someone become so absorbed in a project that perspective becomes lost? And what does this mean for those who care (and worry) about the artist? Those are the dynamics at play in this quirky, thoughtful comedy-drama about a retired screenwriter (Sheila Francisco) who has experienced her share of heartache during her life and has now fallen on hard times during what are supposed to be her golden years. She longs to complete an unfinished work, an action film reminiscent of those frequently made in the Philippines in the 1970s, with elements similar to those also found in classic martial arts and Blaxploitation pictures of the era. However, while in the midst of writing, she experiences a freak accident that leaves her in a coma – and her consciousness in the middle of her script as one of its central heroic figures, a sudden, unexpected appearance that befuddles the characters she created. But, as her adventure plays out in her mind, her family and friends can only look on and wonder what, if anything, they can do for her – that is, until these two different worlds somehow manage to become intertwined with one another. And, as these two parallel yet interwoven stories play out, a curious mix of synchronicities, kooky laugh-out-loud moments and metaphysical insights into the nature of existence all begin to emerge (sometimes simultaneously), providing viewers with much to ponder and plenty to chuckle over. Writer-director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s multiple-layered debut feature is an absolute delight, one that tells a hilarious yet perceptive tale, a challenging narrative combination to pull off as successfully as it is here, an accomplishment comparable to what was achieved in such other 2022 releases as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Strawberry Mansion.” What’s more, this offering is a campy yet lovingly reverential homage to the cheesy action flicks it so capably and intentionally mimics in terms of its clichéd camera work, trite dialogue and sloppy technical elements (like out-of-sync vocal dubbing). Admittedly, the film begins to drag a little in the home stretch, but, as a very deserving Independent Spirit Award nominee for best international film, this is must-see viewing for those who appreciate unexpectedly profound subject matter served up with a healthy slathering of unrepentant kitsch.