Thursday, January 31, 2019

A quiet life that needs some noise

There aren't many movies in which a pair of sunglasses can define the central issue facing a character. In the Paraguayan movie, The Heiresses, a woman named Chela (Ana Brun) can't decide whether to wear sunglasses or not. Her indecision becomes a telling reflection of a life in stasis. Well into her 40s, Chela is stuck in a relationship with her longtime lover Chiquita (Margarita Irun). She's also stuck in other ways, so much so that she has difficulty getting out of bed. Directed by Marcelo Martinessi, The Heiresses tells Chela's story or perhaps non-story would be a better description. But don't let that deter you, Martinessi has made a carefully considered movie about a woman who badly needs to jump-start her life. The opportunity arrives when Chiquita is jailed for debts that she hasn't paid. The couple is going broke and Chela has been selling off family heirlooms from the house in which she grew up. Most of the things the couple sells belong to Chela. Decisive and bold, Chiquita has been more or less running this lopsided relationship. When Chiquita goes to prison, it's Chela who faces the most difficulty. Things begin to change for Chela when a neighbor asks her for a lift to a gathering of friends. Chela warily starts the couple's aging Mercedes. Soon, she establishes a business driving -- sort of a one-person Uber for older women. During her work, Chela meets Angy (Ana Ivanova), the daughter of a passenger Chela drives to medical appointments. It's obvious that Chela is attracted to Angy, but the question looms: Is she too immobilized to act? Thanks to Brun's beautifully calibrated performance, it's stirring to watch Chela flirt with the prospect of rejoining the world. Will she?

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