Film review:
Leonor Will Never Die

This blend of pulpy action homages, playful comedy, and touching family drama, is a wonderfully imaginative tribute to the art of filmmaking

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Bonkers and brilliant, Leonor Will Never Die (from 7 April, Home, Manchester and other cinemas) is the debut feature by Filipino writer-director Martika Ramirez Escobar. It centres on the titular character Leonor Reyes, once a well renowned screenwriter of 1980s action flicks, now struggling with old age, mounting bills and the untimely death of her son, Ronwaldo.

Desperately sad and yearning for the past, and prompted by the ghost of her late son, Leonor discovers a script for an action movie that she never finished about a man, also called Ronwaldo, who sets out to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of a local mayor. But before she can do much about it, she’s hit on the head by a television set and knocked into a coma. As she lies in her hospital bed, tended to by her surviving son Rudie, fantasy and reality begin to blur when Leonor finds herself awake inside her own script.

Initially, we’re presented with two films: a modern-day family drama about loss and poverty, and a low-fi action film shot in 4:3 ratio that’s full of crazy fight scenes and over the top acting. But fantasy and reality are never far from one another in this playful, multi-layered, magical-realist film. Even before Leonor is knocked unconscious, she and others are happily chatting to the ghost of Ronwaldo who appears as a semi-transparent character with a gunshot wound to his chest.

And that’s just the start of it. Things get pretty surreal quickly and there’s much more to this film than first meets the eye. The commentary on screen violence alone is interesting. Leonor once made her living portraying casual violence on screen only for her own son to be gunned down, the result being that she struggles with the violence she witnesses played out around her when she’s trapped inside her own movie. By the end of the film the two narrative stands have merged and morphed into something else entirely. And then there’s a closing musical number.

There are some genuinely funny moments in this heartfelt film, and Sheila Francisco as the film’s wide-eyed star is just wonderful. Worthy of multiple watches, this is a clever, daft, joyous ode to movies, creativity, love and family.

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