Martika Ramirez Escobar’s surreal, award-winning first feature transports a retired screenwriter of Filipino action films into the story of one of her own unfinished scripts.
Leonor Will Never Die
Martika Ramirez Escobar
When an inadvertently tossed television collides with the cranium of one Leonor Reyes (Sheila Francisco), a retired screenwriter of Filipino action films, the accident leaves her body comatose, but her mind is transported into one of her own unfinished movies. While her family, which includes at least one semi-transparent kin(!), rallies around her bedside in the hospital, Leonor finds herself magically interacting with her script’s valiant heroes and nefarious villains, confronting the all-too-real traumas that inspired them, and striving to bring this blood-soaked melodrama to a bulletproof ending.
Not merely the parodic Last Action Hero for Pinoy shoot-em-ups that its fantastic premise might suggest, Martika Ramirez Escobar’s infectiously entertaining feature debut lyrically weaves together patiently paced scenes of social realism with the more vibrantly photographed and rambunctious rhythms of Leonor’s action-packed imagination. Across compounding meta layers, an irresistible authenticity emerges in the face of the apparent artifice of each increasingly surreal episode, one buoyed largely by the warm and empathetic charisma of Francisco’s Leonor, as well as Escobar’s unpredictable flourishes in form, style and self-reflexive experimentation.
Recipient of a Sundance Special Jury Prize in recognition of Innovative Spirit, Leonor Will Never Die is all at once a gleefully offbeat comic tribute to the Filipino action movies of yesteryear, a charming portrait of a compulsive artist, and a wondrous reminder of the ever-elastic and immortalizing possibilities of cinema.
Content advisory: accident trauma, violence, sexual innuendo