Leading Ladies (2021)

Leading Ladies
Director: Ruth Caudeli
Cast: Diana Wiswell, Silvia Varón, Ana María Cuellar, Marcela Robledo, Ana María Otálora
Part of: Transition Film Festival
Seen on: 10.6.2021

Five friends are coming together for dinner – Ana (Ana María Otálora) and Diana (Diana Wiswell) are hosting Silvia (Silvia Varón), Ana María (Ana María Cuellar) and Marce (Marcela Robledo). It’s the first time they are coming together in a while – after Marce abruptly left for two months to travel Europe. But as the evening gets underway, tensions and secrets start to appear.

Leading Ladies is a largely improvised film that starts off interesting enough, but then becomes ever more confusing and falls apart bit by bit.

The film poster showing the faces of the five women next to each other, but separated by stripes in yellow and green.

The film is roughly divided in five or six parts, each picking up the perspective of one of the women until a final part where I don’t know exactly whose perspective we should be following. The structure is interesting enough and for the first two or three parts, it works pretty well as we try to figure out the history of these five friends who don’t actually seem to like each other all that much.

But after the set-up, the fact that film is pretty much entirely improvised comes to bite it in the ass. Subplots are opened, then forgotten. The film seems to get to pivotal moments (Marce confessing to Silvia) that are of no consequence in the grand scheme of friends. The beginning builds towards one thing (Marce’s absence) while the end is about something completely different (the love triangle that is established). Ana María is lost in all of it and doesn’t really have a place around the table here.

Ana María (Ana María Cuellar) cradling Diana's (Diana Wiswell) face.

On a more technical note, the editing doesn’t do the film any favors, either. It takes a while until we see Ana María’s face, for example, as the film just forgets to introduce her for a while. We have a moment where Silvia hands Marce drugs that she surreptitiously drops into a glass, and it’s unclear whose glass it is – her own? Ana’s?

The film culminates in a scene where they are all standing/walking around in the dark and you don’t really know who is talking to who, which line of dialogue belongs to whom (I am really bad with voices, they just aren’t enough for me, but my friend was also very confused), exacerbated by the fact that the subtitles aren’t really great. And then there’s the ending that is suddenly quite positive – after 79 minutes of drama, we are supposed to somehow accept these two minutes of happiness? That doesn’t work.

So, in the end, I lost track more and more of what was happening, and the film seemed to lose track of itself, too, I grew frustrated and bored with it. Not particularly satisfying overall.

The five women around the dinner table, cuddled together.

Summarizing: I wish I liked it better, but I didn’t.

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