Leonor Will Never Die ★★★ 1/2 TIFF 2022

Leonor Will Never Die ★★★ 1/2 TIFF 2022

Absurd, funny, chaotic, self-aware and most importantly heartwarming, Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Leonor Will Never Die an absolute treat for those who love cinema – a clever film that takes you by delightful surprise.

After creating a string of successful action films, Leonor Reyes was once a major player in the Filipino film industry, but now her household struggles to pay the bills. So when she reads an advertisement looking for screenplays, Leonor begins tinkering with an unfinished script about the quest of young, noble Ronwaldo, forced to avenge his brother’s murder at the hand of thugs. While her imagination provides some escape from reality, she goes all-in after an accident involving a television knocks her out, sends her into a coma, and transports her inside the incomplete movie. 

What more can you ask for in a film than that synopsis, right? We have a film that knows exactly what it is doing and is able to delight you for the entire runtime. Escobar takes us on a unique journey by taking advantage of her characters’ surroundings. As much fun as Leonor Will Never Die is, it is also quite reflective and isn’t afraid to let us know that. Executed to perfection, there is little you can do to fault it due to how well Escobar has presented the aspects of the film set in the 70s. Whether it is the little character moments here or there or the change in aspect ratio, you can’t help but smile when watching on, celebrating alongside Escobar in her ode to cinema.

If you need a film to fill your cheesy one-liner mind, then goodness does Leonor Will Never Die feed you some crackers. As our hero Ronwaldo enacts vengeance on two other characters by pouring cement into a box they are lying (awkwardly) in, he utters after a long close-up that inches towards his face, “who’s the hardest one now?”. Fantastic. Without spoiling too much within the film, as it is really a piece that should not be described but experienced so you can get the fullest enjoyment out of it, we have a moment when our hero is caught (as one is to do in an action film). Instead of immediately killing him, their method of killing him is to slowly chip away at cement blocks that are keeping him from hanging. Honestly, it is inspired by how these ideas arose from Escobar.

Martika Ramirez Escobar has happily taken the step from cinematographer to director in her first feature film, showing herself as a talent that everyone needs to keep a firm eye on. She could so easily just have her film spend the rest of its time in Leonor’s screenplay. Still, she decides to take us back to Leonor’s family as they try to figure out whether or not she will wake up again. Both stories draw parallels to the constantly rewritten screenplay as grief comes into play. It is a smart and rather calculated move from the filmmaker who shows her skills that will have you baying for more from her.

The entire cast do some great work, but without a shadow of a doubt, this is Sheila Francisco‘s show and the energy she gives her character drives the film. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has a bucket load of charm to go with that energy, and with a story that has so much going on, she is a great anchor. So when she isn’t on screen, her presence is sorely missed, but that is a situation any film with such a character would feel, so it is hard to be too critical of that here.

Leonor Will Never Die is a film to be experienced by audiences, one that needs to be seen in a large setting with as many people as possible, from people who love not only 80s action films but cinema as a whole. You immediately fall in love with this film and find the joy that it emits.

★★★ 1/2

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