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New meta comedy-thriller that’s bagged historic wins at international film festivals gives a different touch to Filipino action films

A character waking up in a different dimension or timeline isn’t a new plot in Filipino films. But the retro-homage, “Leonor Will Never Die,” delivers the same plot through a ‘film within a film’ approach, and gives a different flavor to local action flicks.

The titular heroine in Martika Ramirez Escobar’s debut film, Leonor Reyes, is a bereaved mother and a well-known retired screenwriter of 1980s action movies. The character, played by theater actress Sheila Francisco, struggles over her old age, rising debts, and his son Ronwaldo’s unexpected death. Ronwaldo, who was tragically killed on set while filming, still lingers at his mother’s home as a ghost and converses with her and the other characters once in a while.

The kooky meta-film starts with Leonor having a disagreement with her other son, Rudie, about an unpaid electricity bill. When the sad and yearning Leonor learns of a screenwriting competition offering a large prize, she decides to dust off and revise an old unfinished script, thinking it could solve her financial problems. The script titled “Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago,” is written for an action film led by a young and noble character, also named Ronwaldo, who is set out to avenge his brother’s death.

However, even before she can do anything about the script, she hits her head on a television and is put into a coma. Although her accident seems alarming, it becomes the turning point of the story. While being tended by Rudie in the hospital, fantasy and reality start to intertwine as Leonor finds herself awake inside her own script, which the audience sees depicted like a vintage action film.

The story takes a number of twists as it switches between several levels of reality. ‘Leonor Will Never Die’ is indeed a clever and joyful ode to cinema, creativity, family, and love, making it worthy of the attention it has garnered.

The 2022 film which ‘reworked’ the Filipino action genre has gained international recognition, as it bagged prestigious awards in film festivals in the US such as Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film festival. It also premiered in six U.S. West Coast cities.

‘Leonor Will Never Die’ is currently streaming on global streaming platform, Netflix.


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