Leonor Will Never Die


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Leonor Will Never Die
"Shows that escapist films can serve every bit as valid a purpose as anything else when it comes to uniting people." | Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF

Martika Escobar takes a playful approach to the idea of a film within her film in her freewheeling debut feature that sends up Filipino action hero tropes at the same time as celebrating family connection. Leonor (played with adorable verve by Sheila Francisco) is an ageing mum, who it turns out was once a hot-shot action film director. Her glory days are in the past, however, in a life marked by the tragedy of losing her eldest son Ronwaldo (Anthony Falcon) - whose ghostly figure pops up to have a series of drily amusing conversations with various family members including Leonor's younger son Rudie (Bong Cabrera).

Rudie has a fractious relationship with his mother, not least because she keeps forgetting to pay the electric bill, but also because he is on the verge of moving out. When Leonor sees an advert for a screenplay contest, she decides to dust off an old screenplay - Ang Pagababalik Ng Kwago (The Return Of Kwago) - which gives her an opportunity to resurrect an incarnation of Ronwaldo (Rocky Salumbides) as a kick-ass hero.

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Escobar first opens a window into this fictional world as we see Leonor's imaginings transformed into lines in her film as her heroes go about their bullet-driven business. After Leonor has an accident, however, the writer/director will fling the door wide open as she slips fully into her high colour, 4:3 aspect ratio creation, while still retaining her real-world persona. Following in the charming footsteps of any number of innocent 'gran' types, she finds herself helping her hero by dint of the fact that she knows exactly what will happen next. This isn’t just an opportunity for pastiche, for Escobar, however, as she shows how Leonor uses her newfound omniscience as a way of working through the emotional legacy the loss of one son and her current problems with the other. As the melodramatic fun and games play out in the fictional realm, as Leonor tries to get back to her younger son, Rudie is trying to reach his mother back in the non-fiction world.

There is a lot going on here, not just considering family relationships but the tensions between fiction and creator - the latter underlined by the arrival, late in the film of filmmaker Escobar herself, ruminating on how it all should end. Showing that escapist films can serve every bit as valid a purpose as anything else when it comes to uniting people, while also hinting at the dangers of thinking action stars are gods, once the fight scene echoes have died, it's the film's emotional heart you can hear beating on.

Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2022
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Leonor Will Never Die packshot
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.
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Director: Martika Ramirez Escobar

Writer: Martika Ramirez Escobar

Starring: Sheila Francisco, Rocky Salumbides, Bong Cabrera, Anthony Falcon

Year: 2022

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: Philippines

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