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Film review: The Heiresses

Film

Winner of multiple awards including best actress at the Berlin Film Festival and best feature film at last year’s Sydney Film Festival, The Heiresses is a moving and subtle drama from Paraguay.

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Without much explanation, we are ushered into the lives of Chela (Ana Brun) and Chiquita (Margarita Irún), a couple who come from wealthy families and have lived together for 30 years, but whose world is crumpling as their debts mount and they start selling off their possessions.

Chiquita is eventually sent to prison by court order and Chela is left to fend for herself. Despite the grim financial situation, she still has a loyal servant, and to earn some money she starts acting as a local taxi driver for rich old ladies.

These contrasts between the rich and poor in Paraguay is one of the strengths of the film. It’s at times difficult to relate to the gossiping women surrounding the quiet Chela, but the fact that all the major characters are women, many of them elderly, is a real treat.

Director Marcelo Martinessi says he believes that “one of the serious problems of societies as macho as the Paraguayan, is that man is expected to have all the answers. And that is frustrating. No one teaches us to enjoy the pleasure of having doubts and asking questions”.

The contemplation of one’s life and the questioning of where it is heading is something to which we can all relate.

In The Heiresses, it is a new friendship with the confident and much younger Angy (Ana Ivanova) that encourages shy Chela to engage with the world in new ways.

Thanks to assured direction and fine performances from all the actors, this unusual film is well worth the praise that has already been heaped on it.

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