SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! The socio-cultural state of Peru in the 1980s and 1990s was that of extreme hostility and instability due to the military conflict between a number of the country’s competing ideological factions. That antagonism persists in some form to the present day. Since this unrest came to affect nearly every facet of Peruvian society, simple things such as buying sugar or receiving consistent electricity became scarce while trepidation grew exponentially. This pervasive atmosphere manages to elevate director Klaudia Reynicke’s Reinas beyond its simple premise of a small family leaving Peru to find better opportunities and stability and explore a whole country’s hopes and fears in a time of crisis.
Carlos “El Loco” Molina (Gonzalo Molina) is a part-time cab driver, part-time security guard, and full-time habitual liar. He seems unable to stop himself from telling whatever story he made up in that moment to make him the center of attention. This behavior, along with his inability to keep his promises, has estranged him from his ex-wife Elena (Jimena Lindo) and his two daughters, Aurora (Luana Vega) and Lucia (Abril Gjurinovic). But when Elena gets a job opportunity in the United States, requiring Carlos’s signature on the travel documents so their daughters can go with her, he attempts to reinsert himself into their lives. Carlos’s influence begins gnawing away at the reservations Aurora has for leaving her friends behind, while Elena becomes desperate to flee the crises enveloping the country. With only three weeks until Lena’s scheduled departure, their family unit is being pulled apart at the seams.
It’s obvious that if Reinas had been made anywhere near Hollywood, it would be so submerged in American romanticism that it’d be indistinguishable from every other sappy domestic drama that champions the family over all adversity. While the major character arcs can be very familiar territory, screenwriters Reynicke and Diego Vega Vidal utilize this familiarity to quickly garner empathy for the central family and bolster the relationship dynamics’ realism. And even though the inevitable undercurrent of political and social opinions works its way into the discourse, this drama presents contrasting viewpoints fairly understated and naturalistically. We’re not here to be soapboxed, and the film doesn’t try. There are subtle critiques aimed at Peru and its evolution from perspectives that, no matter which sociopolitical corner, have nothing but love for their ailing country.
“…only three weeks until Lena’s scheduled departure, their family unit is being pulled apart…”
The whole cast achieves moments in their performances that range the subjective spectrum from somewhat passable to fleetingly brilliant. But everyone pulls off enough consistent believability to sustain the experience. But what really sells the whole package is the minimalist aesthetic achieved by Diego Romero’s cinematography and Paola Freddi’s editing. This stripped-down style gives the audience a wall fly-like vantage to observe the story — almost nearing a cinéma vérité — which offers a deeper emotional reality.
Sure, the script doesn’t possess many moments that are genuinely surprising. But when Reinas manages to turn into a unique narrative arena, it gets its hooks in and successfully pulls us through to the closing credits. The interactions with military checkpoints and the bartering of commodities for bathing suits and fried fish dinners feel natural and authentic. As the film progresses, we are ready to root for each character as they enter the next step of their journey.
Reinas is a film with a lot of heart. Each person is multifaceted, with strengths, shortcomings, nightmares, and dreams. Whether directly forced to make choices or willingly choosing to make them, we see how the consequences of those actions shape the cast and their world. While occasionally showing rough edges, Reynicke achieves quite a lot with fairly little, which speaks well for the creative future of her, the cast, and the crew.
Reinas screened at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
"…a lot of heart."