Keswick Film Club - Reviews - The Heiresses

Reviews - The Heiresses

The Heiresses

Reviewed By Pam Newns

The Heiresses
The Heiresses
'The Heiresses' is an unusual film in many ways – it is from Paraguay, it is totally woman-centred (though with a male director) and it focuses on an older lesbian couple. That said, the themes of imprisonment, change and personal awakening are universal - just not often seen from this perspective.

Chela and Chiquita are two privileged Paraguayan women forced through debt to sell off their furniture and family heirlooms. When Chiquita (the louder dominant partner) is sent to prison for fraud, Chela is left on her own and forced to confront herself, beginning a journey of gradual self-discovery.

It is clear from the start that Chela is no longer fulfilled in the thirty year relationship which has become one of habit, with her in a dependant role. She is withdrawn, reluctant to go out socially and dresses to avoid attention. Left alone, confined in her dark echoing house she has little to do other than dabble at painting in between visits to Chiqui who, in contrast, is in the midst of the action, in her rowdy communal prison. When a neighbour requests a lift to a card game Chela reluctantly obliges - and eventually becomes a taxi service for the smart gossipy well-heeled local ladies. Here she encounters Angy, a lively, more experienced woman with whom she almost has a sexual encounter. When Angy doesn't respond to her desperate phone call, Chela has a meal out on her own, gets drunk and turns up a day late to visit Chiqui. The final scene shows Chiqui, newly released from jail, discovering that Chela, by driving off in her car, has engineered her own release...

Under the direction of Marcelo Martinessi, the film moves at a very slow pace with many lingering shots, reflecting Chela's incremental steps towards independence. Initially always on the edge of the action with everything happening to her, by the end she is stronger and beginning to take the initiative. Chela is sensitively portrayed by Ana Brun, who gives a finely nuanced performance, as she gradually becomes more assertive – dressing attractively, donning sunglasses, driving her car again, then driving on the motorway. Both her role and that of Chiquita (Margarita Irun) are wonderfully played by actresses whose previous acting experience is limited to the stage.

A film which had a mixed reception - too slow and ponderous for some, but I enjoyed the intimate character study and depiction of women's roles and class in Paraguayan society.

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