Once a respected filmmaker, Leonor Reyes has slipped far from the limelight, living with her surviving son Rudie in the slums of Milan and unable to take care of herself or pay her electricity bill, thinking instead of the past and her son Ronwaldo, killed in an accident on set but with the ghost of his memory still alive for her, while Rudie wants to leave for better opportunities but knows that he cannot abandon her.
Hunting through a trunk of old screenplays, Leonor wishes to push one to completion in hopes it might be produced but a freak accident places her in the hospital, comatose after being struck on the head by a television set thrown from the apartment above. Rudie advised to talk to her to stimulate her mind and guide her back to consciousness, Leonor is in another place unreachable by conventional methods, trapped in one of her own movies.
Written and directed by Martika Ramirez Escobar, Leonor Will Never Die is an oddity of mismatched styles and genres, the outer world presented as realism occasionally mixed with the tropes of a soap opera while the dreamworld is a gritty overblown action movie of drug dealers, gun fights, dangerous men, beautiful women and handsome heroes, her leading man named Ronwaldo after her own son, protecting dancer Isabella from gangsters.
The aspect ratios and lighting styles jumping as the scenes switch between the real and the imagined, in her fantasy Leonor (Sheila Francisco) is able to communicate with Ronwaldo (Rocky Salumbides) more easily than she ever could with Rudie (Bong Cabrera), while the ghost of her son Ronwaldo (Anthony Falcon) observes all, nudging things forward where he is able to while Rudie is shown brainscans which describe his mother’s condition in minute detail yet say nothing of who she is.
The early parts of the film already loosely structured, Leonor Will Never Die improves as it becomes more absurd but still suffers from slow pacing, Leonor narrating the action which she witnesses and sometimes participates in, anticipating the dialogue she has written yet seemingly unable to change the course of the plot, the tragedy of her life repeating even as she attempts to rewrite the ending, hoping for a second take to improve the outcome.
The fourth wall already having dissolved, an additional step back to the editing suite and production discussions over the direction of the film should not in theory be out of place yet it jars, the artifice which underlies the art exposed in a colder layer of reality as Escobar considers the finale, ultimately opting for a cliché which against the odds succeeds with a joyous celebration of Leonor’s life, her achievements and her creations.
Leonor Will Never Die is on limited release from Friday 7th April