Heartbreaking and uplifting. Second Star on the Right is an intimate slice-of-life drama with elements of magical realism. Emilia is a 30-something slacker, who has a part-time job teaching drama, still lives with her mother, and never really got her life together. She feels this keenly when spending time with life-long friends, who have all achieved emotional and financial stability.
It is technically an LGBTQ film as Emilia is bi; however, her sexuality isn’t the focal point of the story. Though writer/director Ruth Caudeli does touch on issues of bigotry and bi-erasure, again it isn’t all she talks about. Side note to fellow bisexuals: If someone around you tries to say that bi-people don’t exist, do what Emilia does. Stand up on a chair and shout, “Where are the bi-people! Raise your hands bi-people!” Hopefully, I will be there to back you up.
“Emilia is a 30 something slacker who has a part time job teaching drama, still lives with her mother, and never really got her life together…”
Second Star on the Right is less about the struggles of the community and more about that nebulous time in our 30’s when it’s time to trade in the futon for a real bed. When the people around you start expecting you to pull your own weight not just financially but emotionally. When you start realizing that you can’t go to raves at the drop of a hat. When you start to see the consequences of your decisions. And while this film does come from Columbia, and while it is about a bisexual protagonist, it touches on the universal theme of having to grow up.
While it is apparent that Emilia is a train wreck, Ruth Caudeli doesn’t let the rest of the cast off the hook. Each one is struggling with deep secrets beneath the perfect façade they created. As a group, despite all outward appearance, they are all completely dissatisfied with the way their lives have turned out. But it’s only Emilia who is brave enough to show it. And Caudeli performs a delicate balancing act here where she doesn’t pass judgment on any of the characters. Instead, she just presents the situations and allows the viewer to make a determination on whom, if anyone, is right.
Then there are the whimsical moments of magical realism. Second Star on the Right is, for the most part, a straight-forward dramedy about growing up. Caudeli plays with color and saturation to explore different moods. I understand that. It made sense, and I had seen it before. I don’t want to spoil what is a fun surprise so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know. Or better yet just go watch the movie. Ok, out of nowhere music plays, Emilia sings directly into the camera and suddenly it’s a music video. I found myself laughing uncontrollably at the randomness of it all. However, in the context of the story, and her life is just felt completely perfect and natural.
“Caudeli plays with color and saturation to explore different moods…”
One minor complaint. The sound quality was spotty, though that could just be the screener I was given.
Second Star on the Right ends without an easy resolution. We come back to where we were before, but long-held resentments come to surface, and well-guarded secrets are exposed. In the end, everyone realizes they aren’t as happy as they pretended to be, or as miserable. In the end, everyone realizes that in some way they need to move on. This isn’t a traditionally happy ending but a hopeful one.
Second Star on the Right (2019) Directed by Ruth Caudeli. Written by Ruth Caudeli and Sylvia Varon. Starring Silvia Varon, Ximena Rodriquez, Alejandra Lara, Tatiana Renteria, Diana Wisell. Second Star on the Right screened at the 2019 Outfest Los Angeles.
10 out of 10