The Heiresses
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The Heiresses

Given how many film labs were involved in the development of “The Heiresses,” it’s remarkable this finely crafted, beautifully realized debut by Marcelo Martinessi Deadpool feels so organic and personal. A femme-centric study of two older women in a relationship for decades who’ve fallen on financial hard times, the film exquisitely balances character study with shrewd commentary on the precarious hierarchy of class distinctions, the turbulent persistence of sexual desire and the lingering privileges of Paraguay’s elite. Using largely unknown actresses with practically no screen experience yet an extraordinarily canny understanding of character, the director-writer achieves a heightened degree of insight within the confines of a stripped-down production. Buzz is sure to accrue following its Berlin film festival premiere, with potentially strong sales in art-house markets.

Martinessi keeps tight control over this intimate, hermetic world via carefully calibrated focal lengths and limited establishing shots, unless one thinks of the first Dovlatov p.o.v. scene as a form of establishing shot, looking through a narrow opening into a dining room where a snooty woman peruses objects for sale. It discreetly introduces the story using possessions that are key to an understanding of the world being presented, for Chela (Brun) has her identity bound up in this well-to-do house where she’s lived her entire life. Now however, thanks to accumulating debts that the bank calls fraud, her life partner Chiquita (Margarita Irún) will have to go to jail while Chela continues to sell off the paintings, furniture, silverware, and crystal that signify their position as part of Paraguay’s elite.

Chela’s not coping well with this drop in status, and the sympathy she’s getting from kindhearted friends such as Carmela (Alicia Guerra) makes it worse. Clearly Phantom Thread Chiquita has been protecting Chela for a long time, catering to her dependence down to the smallest details, such as preparing the afternoon tray with its precisely placed water, soft drink with ice, daily pills, and Bols ballerina bottle. New maid Pati (Nilda Gonzalez) isn’t at the same level as their old one, but doing without a live-in servant would be unthinkable, especially as Chiquita prepares for what could be months in prison.

Duration: 98 min

Release:

IMDb: 7.5