Tuesday, October 28, 2008

London Film Festival Day 14 - LION'S DEN / LEONERA

This festival has seen a trio of movies anchored by powerful performances by men - HUNGER, IL DIVO and THE WRESTLER. So it's refreshing to finally come across a movie that centres on the performance of a woman, and also highlights the specifically feminine issue of motherhood, and more powerfully, raising a child while incarcerated.

As the film opens, our protagonist, Julia (Martina Gusman), wakes up in bed, bruised, bloodied and in shock. She automatically goes out for the day and returns him, and only then does she realise that there is a dead man in her house. She's arrested and charged with killing the man - the lover of her boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro). Prison overwhelms this shy pregnant woman, unwilling to shower naked, spurning the lesbian advances of her fellow inmates. By the time she is tried and convicted, three years later, she has become as brazen, strong, and willing to accept intimacy as the other prisoners. As her son grows, the question arises of what should happen to Julia's son Tomas. Julia's mother thinks that prison is no fit place for a child to live. But Julia thinks that the best place for her son is with his mother. And so we build to a tense denouement in which Julia goes to extreme lengths to protect her child.

LEONERA isn't the kind of film that's full of action and plot points. It's essentially the story of a woman who grows in self-knowledge and strength through her friendship with other women and her love for her child. Despite it's apparently dour subject matter, I can reassure you that it never drags, moves along at a swift pace, is utterly engrossing, and ultimately, uplifting.

LEONERA played Cannes, Toronto and London 2008. It was released in Argentina and Spain earlier this year. It opens in France on December 3rd and in the Netherlands on December 11th.

No comments:

Post a Comment