Review: Leonor Will Never Die

Written and directed by Martika Ramirez Escobar, fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay. Starring: Sheila Francisco, Bong Cabrera, Rocky Salumbides, Anthony Falcon, Rea Molina and Allan Bautista.

There are certain films that when you watch them, you can feel how they embody the independent film spirit. It’s not about how much they were made for, it’s about how they instil those qualities of creativity, imagination and originality into their work. Leonor Will Never Die is one of those films, it has such a delightfully wholesome, down to earth feel. It’s a film that has a love of film, it mixes a tale of family grief with an adoration of romantic, dramatic action flicks.

Centring this story around the character of Leonor was such a wonderful idea, both because of the writing and Sheila Francisco’s performance. She’s undeniably the heart of this story and she really brings a lot of charm to the table. There’s an honest simplicity to her persona but there’s also a lot of emotion, particularly that which she’s hiding from her family. Francisco portrays a lot of vulnerability in Leonor, as well as a very kind, sweet nature. She’s also a good example of how the elderly are underestimated and patronised, often taking no notice of how much they have to offer.

Martika Ramirez Escobar terrifically brings that feel of 1980s style television and soap operas to life with the visual quality of Leonor Will Never Die. It’s surprisingly enchanting to watch, that blend of reality and fiction works extremely well. It blurs those lines but also makes it easy to see how it’s translating Leonor’s life into the drama and action. In doing so it creates that story of loss, regret and adds a sincere sadness, which is impressive given that the film holds a lightness to it throughout. It has a sense of fun and levity, which is another big part of its charm. The two may have little in common but it feels like a parallel of One Cut of the Dead, in the way that it holds a freedom to move as it pleases, playing with what’s real and what isn’t.

Leonor Will Never Die is utterly endearing, the way that it can create sincere emotion while keeping a playfulness is excellent. Sheila Francisco does a terrific job of portraying Leonor in both simplicity and complexity, compassionate on the outside but fractured on the inside. Using the transition from reality to television as a vehicle for her to explore her past and grief was a fantastic idea. Everything about it is charming and it’s filled with a great ensemble.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

In cinemas across the UK & Ireland from 7 April

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