Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Leonor Will Never Die - 2022 Sundance Movie Review

The Movie: Leonor Will Never Die

The Director: Martika Ramirez Escobar

The Cast: Sheila Francisco, Rocky Salumbides, Anthony Falcon, Bong Cabrera, 

The Story: Fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay.

The Review:
Every once in a while you run across a movie that is so original, so off the wall, and so unexpected that it leaves you sort of shocked, dazed, and wondering why you liked it so much? For me, this is where Martika Ramirez Escobar's debut feature film lands with it's feel good vibes, throwback sensibilities, and pure sense of love, it fits perfectly into a space reserved at first for true fans of the cinematic experience and I think will end up spilling out to a wider audience. 

This movie, with it's self aware story and movie within a movie within a movie concept, is about as meta as it gets and reminds me of One Cut of the Dead in a lot of ways which is one of my favorite movies of the last decade and one of the most definitely fun meta movies you will ever see. I don't mean to say it is similar as far as the story or the filmmaking styles, they are both very different and very unique, it's more that you can feel the love and the indie movie making spirit embedded into every moment. 

I will say that the first act of the movie takes some patience as the unusual story develops but the payoff is well worth it and by the end, you will be dancing in your seat from all the fun you've had. At it's core the story, is a throwback and homage to 1970's Philippines action movies, a genre that is very specific in the guns blazing and testosterone filled worlds although this movie features a grandma as its hero. Sheila Francisco plays the title character or Leonor and there's no doubt she enjoyed playing in this world with as much enthusiasm as she brought to the role.

As I say all that, I don't want you to get the idea that this a granny with guns type exploitation flick, it is more of a twist and reimagining of what is possible within the genre while also playing with the movie within a movie concept. There is so much craziness going on in this movie from the literal dangers of television to the dangers or male pregnancy. Yes, you read that right and to be honest, I'm still not sure where that fits in but it's there and it somehow makes sense. I mean, when you have a character headbutt his way into a TV to be a part of the movie he is watching, you know all bets are off. 

As far as the actual action that does take place, the fight scenes and choreography are quite brilliant in how they genuinely resemble those old time movies, the kind that looked like they could have been filmed in someone's backyard with camera angles that barely hide the fact that the spinning heel kick is actually coming nowhere near its intended target. I don't want to say the movie is intentionally bad because it's not, but it's clear that Escobar and her crew have a genuine love of cinema that probably could be labeled as bad if you didn't enjoy it so much.

The Verdict:
Leonor Will Never Die is a movie about a screenplay from the mind of a grandma who gets hit in the head and ends up inside the action movie she is trying to write. What seems like madness kind of is but first time director Martika Ramirez Escobar fills her film with loads of love and an idea that we are the creators of our own story and we might just have a little more say in the outcome than we often are led to believe.

To keep track of all my Sundance reviews, interviews, and other festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at Sundance 2022.

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