SXSW 2021: Islands, see you soon, Ludi

Martin Edralin’s directorial debut “he isIs surely one of the most progressive and understated films of the virtual festival this year, and such fondness will only help it stand out even more. This story of isolation and aging – of having to take care of sick parents without knowing how to take care of oneself – is a mind-boggling feat of lived-in filmmaking, with compositions on tour and a confident pace as organized as furniture. In a living room . Filled with the characteristics of a strong director, he is as emotionally immersive as he is modest. 

Set in Ontario, “Islands” depicts a man on the threshold of his 50th birthday living with his parents as they begin to slow down. Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas) is shy and religious, and has never had a girlfriend; it is a different life path from that of his brother Paolo, who later shows up at home with his smiling wife and children. Living in this social isolation, Joshua accompanies his parents to their group dance class and struggles to afford to make friends in his job as a janitor at the nearby university. Joshua’s deepest relationship is with God, his nightly prayers are like monologues over with nostalgia. “I don’t want to be alone,” he pleads, while having a certain shyness that can easily overwhelm him. 

The quiet house is shaken when, at the beginning of the story, the mother dies. Now it is up to the son to take care of his father Reynaldo (Esteban Comilang), even if he does not know the family recipes, nor how to physically run his father. This leads to long periods of custody; no more take out, no more isolation. In tender fashion from the storyline, a lifeline comes into play, as Joshua’s cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco) returns from caregiving in Kuwait (a terrible experience, she reveals, in one scene). touching) to help. Marisol brings a certain lightness to the story, but is by no means a simple solution to the problem given the conditions of the father and the immaturity of the son. 

“Islands” prevails to make you live in this situation, in this house, to understand the layout of the living room and the dining room and the kitchen, while also noting the rhythms of the provision of care. When the son helps his father get into the shower, one small movement after another, Edralin’s camera patiently accompanies him, throwing the challenge any time she needs, investing us in the feat of putting the feet after others in the shower. In other cases, it is not so much to occupy itself as the time to sit down, to watch the physical deterioration of the father alongside the stagnation of his son. But with mom gone, they begin to share the silences and loneliness. The excellent performances are of a similar restraint, their lack of outward emotions leading you to recognize the different undertones of desire on their face, creating a rich atmospheric effect (father’s looks can be especially revealing). It becomes clear as “Islands” moves from one sequence to the next that the amount of empathy he has for these characters matches that of their significant loneliness. 

Underneath this quieter exterior, there is a playful side to Edralin’s direction that appears exhilarating. He has a sense of humor, like when Joshua’s father is shown in his Elvis impersonator costume, alluding to a rock star who has since gone muted. And then there’s a triumphant scene just before Marisol appears, when things look the most terrible. Joshua has completely resigned himself to the take-out ordering and reheating circle, and when he places food in a microwave, the camera watches it heat up for a full minute. Suddenly, the samba music kicks in from the parents’ dance lessons, and it’s a moment of exhalation, an intermission, a release that gently overlaps the different slices of life within the “islands”. This scene, like many others, shows the depth of Edralin’s trust and also his compassion, two facets that are sure to make him a filmmaker who we can trust in the future with our most uncomfortable experiences but honest. 

First in the festival’s narrative spotlight program, Mari Walker’s heartfelt and compelling debut as a director “See you laterRecounts the reunion of two people who were college lovers and who have since gone on to live different lives. Naomi has lost some of her artistic and activist flair, and is now a mother of two and a bride in a marriage that feels more practical than romantic. Kris used to date Naomi, until she suddenly abandoned her years ago. Kris has made the transition over the past year and during that time has learned what it is like to be a woman. “We have a lot to say,” their conversation begins, and it quickly becomes apparent that there is always more to their initially friendly chatter. 

Written with balanced brevity and space by Walker and Kristen Uno, “See You Then” is a dialogue-driven character study that makes you want to know more about Kris and Naomi, and doesn’t get caught up in a exhibition which would make clearer the intentions of history to touch on the past while reflecting the future; one of the best things about the script is that its talking points come up naturally and fill the emotional and historical space without losing momentum. Mohseni and Chen make a great on-screen pair with their perfectly edited jokes, sometimes at odds given the past pain that Naomi remembers much more vividly than Kris. Their discussions focus on topics that are fascinating in themselves, like Naomi’s practical life choices, or Kris ‘experience a year ago in transition, and Kris’ desire to become a mother. “See You Then” often wanders through thorny and fascinating territory whenever Naomi brings up Kris’ previous actions during college days, as part of an identity from which Kris has evolved in only certain ways. 

You enjoy being around Kris and Naomi so much that the inevitable climax – a mystery for long as to what it can be – is almost dreaded. How could this film have caused a meaningful but inevitable clash, given all the tenderness from before? But he does it wonderfully, tying everything together with details that have been in between pauses in their conversations. And due to Naomi’s artistic background, it even unfolds with a visual background that naturally gives a lot of color, the camera revolves around them. It’s a stylized departure from the previously understated style, and it helps Walker’s selective but deliberate flourishes further leave their collective mark. 

Like other great conversation movies, “See You Then” is told with deceptive ease – it makes a two-character chat, with a few places and supporting characters (mostly men who hit Kris) looking “easy.” despite the ambition. The film wins by honoring the graduality of such evolving social interaction, so much so that their literal rhythm reads as its only unnatural blossoming – they take several minutes to walk about two blocks. But this rhythm, one step at a time, almost takes on a hypnotic effect. It forces the viewer to slow down and drink it all down and focus on what Kris and Naomi aren’t saying to each other. 

Edson Jean’s “LudiA difficult day follows in the hard-working life of Ludi (Shein Mompremier), a Haitian immigrant who works in palliative care to pay the rent for her small room in Miami and send money to her family in Haiti. She communicates with her family via a tape they email, listening to messages and recording over them, a clever narrative device to show off her voiceover throughout and to accompany Ludi’s feelings of loneliness in her work. . Events catch up with her at the end of a long week, where she tries to add more hours to her job – Jean and Joshua’s script Jean-Baptiste first captures a modern hustle and bustle, of someone struggling. to get more work. She tries to beg her superiors in the care facility where she works, then asks a sneaky colleague. For someone with an established sense of right and wrong, she tries to look past that by taking more hours than the law allows. Older people in this story, including a shuttle driver who thinks she just needs a man, mention the idea of ​​her taking a vacation as if it were a cruel joke. 

It’s a compelling tale in its honesty, but momentum is lost when she finds work taking care of an old man named George, who clearly doesn’t want her help. Ludi succeeds, wanting to honor the job assigned to him and help someone who needs physical help and cooking. These scenes highlight his immense sense of helping others and his dedication to hard work, but also flatten “Ludi” and his initial promise of revealing nervous energy. 

I deeply appreciate what “Ludi” ultimately entices its viewers; it works like a sort of parable about not doing more work than you can handle, because a lot of Ludi’s actions during the day are doing things that others will benefit a lot more than they do. she. But while Mompelier’s courage is a strong emotional core for this story, the filmmaking and supporting performances are too rough around the edges, creating more of a broad idea of ​​the environment Ludi tries to navigate on a daily basis. He doesn’t have enough signature, although it does make you empathize with Ludi from the start, instilling hope that she will have time to take care of herself. 

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