Review: Soledad

Written and directed by Carlos Renaso, after arriving in the United States from her home in the Caribbean, Soledad makes a phone call to her older sister and learns her marriage may be a lie. Starring: Angelica Herrera, Danny Borbon and Pathy Polanco.

One of the things that quickly becomes clear is how pragmatic and resourceful of a filmmaker Renaso is, getting shots from what’s naturally occurring to set off the film then making such great use of the negative space in his direction. The way that the shots are so frequently static works extremely well to capture both sides of the story at once, saving it from a lot of unnecessary and jarring cuts back and forth between Soledad (Herrera) and her husband (Borbon). Its style feels humble, yet Renaso also works in a lot of tight shots to display the more sinister or ominous side to the story, forcing your perspective almost uncomfortably close. One of the common mistakes with short film is to try and fit too much in or do too much, but Renaso keeps things just simple enough to not sacrifice the style he brings through and to tell the story without any distraction.

The writing is an interesting mix, while the synopsis would present itself as more of a drama turned thriller or mystery, what surprisingly unfolds is an exploration of domestic abuse. The way that Soledad’s husband treats her, captures the casual way that men can hide the abuse, giving safety or financial dependence as reasons why they can remove their partner’s independence or even freedom to leave the house. It portrays a use of affection to keep the victim believing that they do genuinely care for them, those rare moments of warmth after craving it so deeply plastering over the realisations that the way they’re being treated is wrong. Renaso has a nice way of exploring Soledad’s isolation through slow-motion effects, having her focus on the details because she has to distract herself from the situation.

It’s a shame that Renaso didn’t simply put all his aims with this film into exploring that abuse, it does still feel as though it’s being pulled in another direction by the mysterious elements to the story, when it might have been better served, laser focusing on the abuse aspect. It becomes more of an issue as the film reaches its conclusion as it feels as though it’s trying to establish a realisation from the lead that hasn’t had time to take hold. It’s an unexpectedly blunt way to end what was otherwise a very observant story, it feels as though it needed just a little bit more time to develop to achieve the effect that Renaso was going for, though you can see the intention. There are also a couple of moments where he leans too heavily on the close-up and could have pulled back slightly just to have a more satisfying frame.

Soledad is a surprisingly observant and compelling example of domestic abuse, with great performances from its small yet strong cast. Its attempts to go for a sudden or eye-opening revelation for its character doesn’t quite get to where they need to be but it is easy to see what Renaso was going for. The film has a strong directorial style for a filmmaker still so early in his career, it shows a great awareness of space and a creative use of resources. It plays to a simple, humble tone while exploring a very complicated story which blends to create something absorbing.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Soledad will be showing at:
The 9th Annual Dominican Film Festival in New York Virtual Edition from October 20th to 30th
– The Artists Forum Film Festival from October 16th – November 12th
– Yonkers Film Festival November 7th – 15th

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