Just because a movie picks up a shiny prix at some circus in Europe doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. This dour, patronising and sleep-inducing piece is not unlike the wildly overrated Gloria Bell, in that it is the product of yet another South American bloke making his judgment of a woman’s life – and it’s a pretty miserable judgment at that. Set in Asunción, Paraguayan writer/director Marcelo Martinessi has shot much of his film in what feels like a dull half-light, with more close-ups and pregnant pauses than you’d think was absolutely necessary and without ever really developing an on-screen character that that you can properly care for. The elderly Chela (Ana Brun) has been disappointed by life – although it is unclear why. At our first encounter, she is in bed, not wishing to get up to attend a function with her more lively, longtime partner Chiquita (Margarita Irun). Soon after, Chiquita is imprisoned for not having paid outstanding debts, and Chela finds herself in the position of needing to leave the boudoir to visit her friend. This leads to her getting behind the wheel of their car for the first time in ages and giving another woman a ride to her regular game of cards with a group of fellow patrician biddies and, through these trips, to an encounter with Angy (Ana Ivanova), a maid whose experiences will open Chela’s eyes to what she has been missing out on in her cloistered existence. Quite frankly, it is terribly predictable, as the car becomes the vehicle of Chela’s belated awakening – you know where it’s headed when she dares to leave the narrow streets of her neighbourhood to venture on to the freeway. The prison scenes are an eye-opener, and Angy adds some feistiness to proceedings, albeit in a stereotypical role, but the narrowness of Martinessi’s world view is too stifling to be balanced by what is intended to be a great liberation. For mine, it makes a Hugh Grant rom-com look like a masterpiece.
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