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The Heiresses (Las herederas) - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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The Heiresses (Las herederas)
SIFF's capsule summary: "The bond of a longtime couple is tested when one is sent to prison for debt and the other rediscovers her passions while chauffeuring wealthier older ladies in this Berlinale Silver Bear-winning drama.
    Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize and the Silver Berlin Bear (Best Actress and Alfred Bauer Prize) at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, as well as the FIPRESCI Prize and the Golden India Catalina Award at the 2018 Cartagena Film Festival." (Paraguay, 2018, 95 minutes)
SIFF link: The Heiresses

Chela (Ana Brun) and Chiquita (Margarita Irun) are a long-time couple who live together in the elegant house where Chela was born, with their domestic worker Pati (Nilda Gonzalez). Chiquita gets into legal trouble and goes to prison. Chela visits Chiquita regularly, and while home she sells off family treasures to pay Chiquita's debts. (I wasn't clear whether the debts were fines, restitution for theft, ordinary debt, or a combination, but this review and others say that it was common debt that creditors pursued as fraud.) A wealthy visitor needs a ride, which gives Chela an opportunity to use her late father's Mercedes as a taxi instead of selling it, and through that woman Chela becomes an informal taxi driver to other wealthy women. A mother and daughter need a ride to visit a distant hospitalized relative, and Chela becomes friends with the attractive daughter, Angy (Ana Ivanova), drawing Chela out of her social cocoon.

7 Good The film was written and directed by Marcelo Martinessi. It's remarkable that a film with almost no men and an abundance of well-written women characters was written by a man. The script is very good, aside from my confusion about the debt and crime (possibly my fault rather than the script's), and a plot point that I'll address in the spoilers section. The directing is in most respects very good too, but the pacing was uneven – slow during the exposition, and a bit rushed near the end – I'd call it good.

Ana Brun gave an excellent acting performance, particularly given that it's her only credited film role. (If I've read this article correctly, her father was a lawyer and occasional actor, and she followed in his footsteps to be a lawyer, stage actor, and now film actor.) Ana Ivanova is very good – and just the right kind of attractive for the rule. I didn't get much impression of Margarita Irun, who had less screen time, but she played a good contrast to Brun. And although Nilda Gonzalez was on screen frequently, she was largely invisible in her servant role.

The film's art direction was very good; Chela's home had just the right declining elegance, the assorted wealthy ladies' haunts looked like upper middle class old money, the prison was convincing enough that I'd assume the film borrowed space from an actual prison, and other locations are well-chosen too. I don't recall the score or see music credits on IMDB.

Although most aspects of the film are very good or excellent, my concerns about plot points and the uneven pacing detracted from the film a bit. Overall, I rate it good.

[Click to read spoilers.] SPOILERS: From time to time, Angy talks about her not-so-successful dates and relationships with men. But late in the film, Angy reveals that she is also interested in women – including Chela, who is quite surprised by the revelations. With her long-term partner imprisoned, Chela is very tempted, once she shakes off her surprise.
    Near the end, a woman in the prison has an outburst that shows that Chiquita either had a behind-bars relationship or at least led the other woman into believing Chiquita was tempted.
    I had a conversation with J was about the apparent behind-bars relation. Was it in the script so that the audience would not blame Chela for being tempted by Angy? Did it need to be there, or would the audience sympathize with Chela anyway, because Angy was clearly an attractive temptation, and her partner had been imprisoned for a long time? Would Chiquita's apparent infidelity justify Chela if Chela didn't know about it?
    J thought that Chiquita's apparent prison relationship detracted from the story because the story didn't need to give Chela a justification for being attracted to Angy. And after further thought, I agree that the revelation doesn't belong, because the film is Chela's story, and it's about something that Chela would not have known about.
End spoilers.

Languages: Spanish, with English subtitles. (It started without subtitles during our screening, by mistake. But soon the mistake was corrected, and the film restarted with the subtitles turned on.)

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but I'd guess it would rate a "PG-13", unless the MPAA slaps it with an "R" solely because Chela and Chiquita are a same-sex couple.

Screening: 12 noon, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a typical SIFF press screening crowd, around 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "R" and Fool Serious volunteer "J" provided announcements. R said it was his final day for announcements this year.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 91 films (58 features, 27 shorts), 61 time slots, 6 parties. ("J": only four parties, and 20 shorts, and two fewer films. I saw three features she missed, and this morning she saw one that I missed.)

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