Comedy-thriller and Sundance award-winner Leonor Must Never Die, written and directed by first-time filmmaker Martika Ramirez Escobar, is an intriguing, galloping meta-romp-mix of fantasy, action pastiche and reality about the power of filmmaking.
Pulp Actionby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Can a screenwriter’s scripts exorcise their real-life problems?
Leonor Reyes (wonderful stage actor Sheila Francisco) was once a groundbreaking figure in the Filipino film industry during its ragtag action-cinema glory days, but now she lives with her reluctant son Rudy (Bong Cabrera) struggles with old age, mounting bills, and the untimely death of her other son (Anthony Falcon) (symbolically on a film set in an accident not unlike that on Rust.)
Can a director ever really retire?
While revisiting an unfinished action script about a fearless protagonist trying to avenge his brother’s murder, Leonor is struck on the head by a falling television set (satire?) and knocked into a coma. As she lies unconscious in the hospital, fantasy and reality begin to blur when Leonor finds herself awake inside her script, becoming the hero of her own story.
Leonora Will Never Die is an unclassifiable meta-mixture of a fantasy pastiche of the schlock ’70s action movies that Leonora used to write, starring her dead son’s namesake Ronwaldo (Rocky Salumbides) as an indestructible action hero…
.., who saves the girl…
..and the run-down reality of the present-day Manila where Leonor lives.
Once a director, always a director?
Contemporary life is full screen, while the fantasy sequences are in the old, boxy Academy ratio. Ultimately, in her coma Leonor has the power to manually adjust the screen size and decide what is real and what is not. I said it was meta. Is there a message? Be the author of your own life and do not allow others to edit it.
Now sit back and enjoy the ride!
Leonor Will Never Die premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is released on 7 April 2023 in the UK and on digital from 8 May 2023.