“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” we’re instructed. But how does this adage apply to the ultimate quarter of our lives, after we are not working? Do we give up what we love as simply as we clock out of a workday at 5 PM? Can an individual actually retire from their job, when that job can be their lifeblood? This is the dilemma that the titular character faces in Martika Ramirez Escobar’s “Leonor Will Never Die.”
Written and directed by Escobar, the surrealist and avant-garde comedy follows Leonor Reyes (Sheila Francisco), a once-eminent determine within the Filipino motion movie trade who’s, to her dismay, retired. Now in her sundown years, Leonor will not be solely grieving the lack of her livelihood but additionally her late son, Ronwaldo (Anthony Falcon), whose frequent sojourns within the mortal realm assist blur the boundaries between actuality and fiction, the dwelling and the lifeless within the movie. Ronwaldo can be the namesake and inspiration for the protagonist in Leonor’s deserted motion screenplay, “The Return of the Kwago.”
Leonor’s relationship together with her dwelling son, Rudie (Bong Cabrera), isn’t any higher. The two are seen bickering after Leonor fails to pay the utility invoice for the third month, squandering the household’s already dwindling funds on motion DVDs. Rudie accuses his mom for attempting to relive her bygone glory days. “I don’t understand Mama anymore,” he confides to a pal. “She knows every new show but can’t remember to pay the electricity.” While the aged lady could also be a spendthrift, her reckless purchases additionally evince an auteur’s determined starvation to return to her artwork. The DVDs give her extra than simply idle escapism: Leonor has a narrative to inform and she or he’s keen to complete it.
She picks up the place she left off with “Kwago,” excavating the unfinished script from its coffin, a dusty field of forgotten mementos. After a satisfying writing session, nevertheless, Leonor is immediately struck on her head by a falling TV set and is rendered comatose. Leonor is then transported inside her personal screenplay. Inside “Kwago,” she is directly a participant, spectator, and scribe in her personal film. Leonor experiences each author’s dream: touching, feeling, and dwelling in a universe of her personal invention.
Meanwhile, within the waking realm, Rudie is instructed by the physician that Leonor is in hypnagogia and is suggested to speak to his mom to assist her get up. He will get the thought to provide Leonor’s screenplay with the want that she would return to consciousness. The extra he reads the script, nevertheless, the much less he understands his personal mom. “Where did it all come from, Ma?” Rudie asks Leonor by her bedside. “I can’t see through you, Ma. You’d rather talk to the script characters.”
True sufficient, each essential particular person in Leonor’s life has a corresponding avatar in “Kwago,” which has successfully develop into an area for the screenwriter to course of and confront the traumas which have marked her life. We see Leonor commiserating with a bereaved mom – her fictional counterpart – who has additionally misplaced a son, apologizing to the character for writing such struggling into her arc. “I didn’t know what to do,” Leonor tells the girl, recalling how Ronwaldo died. “It was like a film.”
Escobar revealed to us that “Leonor Will Never Die” is a manifestation of the concept “we’re all living in our own movies.” We see this sentiment expressed within the movie’s experimental and self-reflexive storytelling, the place the fourth wall is continuously damaged: the viewers turns into aware of the post-production course of and Escobar’s personal inventive selections as we see her run concepts by her colleagues. As the director emphasised, “Leonor Will Never Die” is “about how I see life as one long film that we keep on writing and revising until it’s complete.” Audiences are left questioning which components of the movie are a part of the story and that are paratextual – do these distinctions even matter as long as we benefit from the film?
“Leonor” is a multi-meaning entity: Leonor the comatose mom, Leonor the tenacious artist, Leonor the character brilliantly portrayed by Francisco. Is the Leonor that we see on the display screen in “Kwago” a figment of the retired screenwriter’s personal creativeness? Or is it the materialization of her reminiscence, preserved by Leonor’s surviving relations? “Leonor Will Never Die” reminds us of fiction’s distinctive skill to transcend the restrictive legal guidelines of actuality. Even if the falling TV does show lethal, Leonor won’t ever actually die. As lengthy as there’s a viewer on the opposite aspect of the display screen, she doesn’t need to.
“Leonor Will Never Die” hits theaters November 25. It premiered at this yr’s Sundance Film Festival, it gained the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Innovative Spirit.