Review: Leonor Will Never Die (Fantastic Fest 2022)


Title: Leonor Will Never Die
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Martika Ramirez Escobar
Starring: Sheila Francisco, Bong Cabrera, Rocky Salumbides
Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins

What It Is: An older woman named Leonor (Francisco) is a retired filmmaker for television, living with her adult son. One day when she goes out for a smoke, a television falls onto her head, leaving her in a coma in which she imagines herself inserted into an unfinished story she had written. Starring a handsome lead protagonist, his beautiful damsel in distress, and dangerous, unstable gunslinging gangs, Leonor’s dream leads her down a journey of her own creation that establishes just how powerful her love for storytelling really is.

What We Think: With strong and playful emotional beats that may bring you back to Everything, Everywhere, All at Once and old television shows that remind you of your long-distance family members, this film came entirely as a love letter to the art of imagination, and the powerhouse of the self. Our protagonist Leonor is at first someone who we’re put in the place of, someone who has long since been settled into her life as a writer/creator for an action-drama television show. You see her hopes and dreams fully played out when she crosses into a world of her creation that crossbreeds with her own personality, desires, and concerns. The narrative following her through the dream feels very realistically like a dream, much like when you know everyone in it, and what’s supposed to happen, and with the understanding of how much power you have over its events. The film takes this in an interesting stride, the crux of “self” and one’s dreams saturating deeper into the film, until it turns out, the film is also part of the dream. The expression of how art is the imprint and extension of ourselves comes off as lively, a positive message embracing and accepting of the part of our lives where we may face sickness and death, but the lengths of how far we can dream is a way in which we, and Leonor, will never die.

Our Grade: B+, A beautifully-filmed project that perfectly replicates old television and cleverly blurs the line between reality, dreams, and fiction with some unpredictability, Leonor Will Never Die is a charming odyssey into one artist’s mindscape and takes pride in the legacy left behind by our creativity, aging, and culture. If you have any ates, uncles, cousins, lolos, and/or lolas who love action, soaps, or television overall, this will be the perfect bonkers nod to the 80s for you and them to bond over.

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