The Original

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Original
"Michelle Garza Cervera's hard-hitting film combines an elegant sense of aesthetics with emotional intelligence and insight." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

It opens with two young women smiling and laughing as they dance together, clad in swaying dresses and high heels. Even in black and white they look bright and full of life. But something is wrong. Part way through the dance, Gwendolyn (Rebecca Layoo) begins to stiffen and stumble. Not missing a beat, Alana (Ariana Lebrón) moves her backwards to the mirror at one end of the room, then gently downwards, holding her as she experiences a seizure.

Years later, things have got worse. Gwendolyn is twisted sideways in her wheelchair. She is no longer able to speak, though something in her eyes suggests that she is still alert to what's going on around her. They are visiting Dr Saunders (Ingrid Evans) to discuss the procedure. Gwendolyn has passed all the tests. It's still not the right time, Dr Saunders insists, her approach suggesting a hint of homophobia and perhaps racism. But Alana is determined to make it happen.

Copy picture

Even with the limitations placed upon Layoo as an actress for much of the film, the chemistry between the two women is strong and the tone of the film suggests enduring romance. But when something goes wrong with the procedure, Alana will be forced to make a difficult decision, and the way she approaches it calls her motives into question.

Packing a great deal of subtext into just 14 minutes, Michelle Garza Cervera's hard-hitting film, which screened at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival, combines an elegant sense of aesthetics with emotional intelligence and insight. It's beautifully shot with an awareness of texture that's becoming increasingly rare in today's digitally-dominated cinema. Cervera uses this to conjure up the mood of early 20th Century horror, though the focus here is on the psychological and it's not what you see that will stay with you so much as what is communicated. Confronting realities that are rarely discussed, she has created something daring and necessary.

Reviewed on: 11 Aug 2019
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A couple's love is tested by illness and the treatment that follows it.

Director: Michelle Garza Cervera

Writer: Andrew X Fleming

Starring: Rebecca Layoo, Ariana Lebrón, Ingrid Evans

Year: 2019

Runtime: 13 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

Fantasia 2019

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