The Heiresses: Stirring study of sexuality, ageing and privilege

Review: Ana Brun is exquisite in this portrait of the faded glories of wealthy lesbians

The Heiresses

Film Title: The Heiresses

Director: Marcelo Martinessi

Starring: Ana Brun, Margarita Irún, Anna Ivanova, Nilda Gonzalez, María Martins, Alicia Guerra,Yverá Zayas

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 98 min

Thu, Aug 16, 2018, 05:00

   

Chela (Ana Brun) and Chiquita (Margarita Irun) are two wealthy older lesbians living a life that is very much all fur coat and no knickers. Now that Chela’s inheritance has dwindled, the women are slowly selling bits and pieces from their elegant home. The table. The silverware. The out-of-tune piano. Chela, the more delicate of the two, is wholly dependent on Chiquita, who runs the household, instructs the maid and takes care of the money, while Chela sits in her bedroom daubing at a canvas. Everyday the cut-price illiterate maid is required to bring the mostly confined Chela coffee, water, diet cola, pills and Bols liqueur all arranged carefully on a tray.

If there were more garbage and raccoons, it might just pass as a South American Grey Gardens.

When Chiquita is sent to debtors’ jail, Pituca (María Martins), a formidable elderly neighbour whose capacity for malice is as impressive as her pearls, insists that Chela drive her to her weekly card game. Driving brings in a small income, increases Chela’s confidence, and more importantly allows her to befriend other women including the ridiculously racy Angy (Ana Ivanova), a bisexual with considerable flirtation skills.

Paraguayan theatre veteran Ana Brun deservedly won the Best Actress award at Berlin earlier this year for her exquisitely poised performance as a very late bloomer. Working in delicate motions, writer-director Marcelo Martinessi explores sexuality, ageing, class, and privilege. Few films have been as effective in their depiction of the intricacies of female hierarchy and relationships. The gossip is always juicy. The glances are always sidelong.

Cinematographer Luis Armando Arteaga uses widescreen to emphasis the limitations of Chela’s world and darkness to articulate the faded glories of Chela and Chiquita’s diminished lifestyle.

A welcome new entry into the same subgenre as Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s magnificent Aquarius.