Current Issue #488

Film Review:

Colombian director Franco Lolli’s second feature is a tough, Spanish-language family drama that takes considerable risks yet works well, with fine performances from a surprisingly untested cast.

Lolli (also a co-writer and co-producer) gives this an autobiographical aspect by rather daringly casting members of his own family as the chief protagonists, especially as neither had ever acted before and both were required to participate in painful, emotionally challenging scenes. And yes, it could have been an absolute disaster.

Sometimes known as The Defendant in countries where non-English titles tend to scare people, this has Silvia (Carolina Sanin, Lolli’s cousin and a writer and famed feminist) and her sister Maria José (Alejandra Sarria) coming to terms with the imminent death of their chain-smoking mother Leticia (Leticia Gómez, Lolli’s own Mum) who, after four years of treatment for lung cancer, has finally decided to give it up. To add to the personal edge, Gómez was in remission from cancer herself during the filming, which Lolli says made the shoot highly charged and distressing.

Sanin’s Silvia, a lawyer, looks convincingly exhausted and wrung-out throughout because not only is she dealing with Leticia’s last days, but there’s an ongoing crisis at work as well, and a distinct chance that her bastard bosses might let her take the fall for their own corruption (and that perhaps prosaic title refers to the looming court case). She also has a nice new boyfriend named Abel (Vladimir Durán), a popular radio host who previously mocked her during a live interview, and she continually worries about her all-systems-go four-year-old son Antonio (Antonio Martinez), who has obviously inherited his mother’s (and his grandmother’s) stubborn streak and recently begun to ask thorny questions. Like the one about where exactly his father is.

Lolli’s movie does feature a great deal of tense sniping and bickering between the characters, but this mostly adds to the realism and helps contribute to the feeling that this is a genuine family that we’re watching here. Because, in many ways, it is.

Litigante (M) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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