Leonor Reyes is a retired action film director who finds herself inside the dangerous world of her new screenplay.


Director(s) Martika Ramirez Escobar
Screenplay By Martika Ramirez Escobar
Date Released 1/21/2022
Where To Watch Film Festival (Sundance)
Genre(s) Action

Drama

Non-English

Duration 101 Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Cast
Leonor Reyes Sheila Francisco
Rudie Bong Cabrera
Ronwaldo (Ghost) Anthony Falcon
Valentin Alan Bautista
Ronwaldo Rocky Salumbides
Isabella Rea Molina

Film Summary

Leonor Reyes is a formerly renowned director of Filipino action flicks, currently struggling to keep the lights on. One son, Rudie, who was helping around the house, is making plans to move out but is worried about leaving his mother behind, while the ghost of her other son, Ronwaldo, is a frequent family visitor.

Leonor (Sheila Francisco) going through her papers
Sheila Francisco appears in Leonor Will Never Die by Martika Ramirez Escobar, an official selection of the World Cinema: Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Carlos Mauricio.
All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

But when Leonor sees a newspaper competition asking for entries, she gets out of her funk and begins a new movie script to enter into the contest. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get very far before falling into a coma and into her latest screenplay. Thus her initial excitement soon fades as she struggles to survive in this blood-soaked story about love and revenge.

Meanwhile, Leonor’s family struggles to accept the possibility that she may not wake up, as the line between what is real and what is fiction becomes increasingly unclear.

Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered

  • Reason(s) for Film Rating: Gun violence, blood, brief nudity, cursing, drinking, smoking

Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs

We’ll all be leaving, one way or another.

— Ronwaldo

Review

Highlights

A Surrealist Masterpiece

Leonor (Sheila Francisco) peering down a hole
Sheila Francisco appears in Leonor Will Never Die by Martika Ramirez Escobar, an official selection of the World Cinema: Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Carlos Mauricio.
All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Leonor Will Never Die keeps you constantly on your toes as you never know what director Martika Ramirez Escobar will throw at the audience next. Rewinds and retakes are par for the course, and just when you think you’ve got the rules figured out, they change.

As the film progresses, reality becomes blurrier and blurrier, and Escobar cuts in some beautiful dreamlike imagery to sell home the surrealism. The result is a delightfully strange story that is truly unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Leonor and Rudie

The characters in Leonor’s screenplay are definitely fun, but the real heart of this film comes from the performances of Sheila Francisco as Leonor and Bong Cabrera as Rudie. Even as Rudie pleads with his mother to be more pragmatic, it’s not entirely clear who really needs whom.

Leonor (Sheila Francisco) and Rudie (Bong Cabrera) in a hospital
Sheila Francisco and Bong Cabera appear in Leonor Will Never Die by Martika Ramirez Escobar, an official selection of the World Cinema: Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Carlos Mauricio.
All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Although Rudie is ready to move out at the beginning of the film, he’s not ready to let go of his mother. Leonor may be the main character, but Rudie’s journey to better understand his mother after she falls into a coma and his commitment to get through to her no matter what leads his character to evolve into the emotional center of this film.

A Love Letter to Filipino Action Flicks

The love behind this 8-year-old passion project can be felt in every frame. The film reads as a love letter to filmmaking, and most especially to the Filipino action genre. Half of Leonor Will Never Die takes place inside Leonor’s latest action movie idea, and the film painstakingly reconstructs details from the 1980s and 1990s era which saw the immense popularity of action flicks in the Philippines.

That doesn’t mean Leonor Will Never Die takes an uncritical stance towards the action genre, however. On the contrary, the film comments on the rage and excessive violence that are key components of Leonor’s newest screenplay. As Leonor is forced to live through her story ideas, she starts to realize that entertainment may not be so harmless after all.

Ultimately, Leonor Will Never Die is interested in exploring the question: why are depictions of violence and revenge so appealing and what does this type of media say about the society that avidly produces and consumes it?

On The Fence

The Ending

While the movie never shies away from referencing itself, its ending reaches peak meta-levels in a way that viewers will likely either love or hate. It’s an interesting editorial choice, and one that did take me out of the rollercoaster of emotions that had been building up until that point, but I’m not sure I could imagine a more fitting ending.

Overall

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Leonor Will Never Die is a must-watch film and a real cinematic experience. Director Martika Ramirez Escobar lets her passion show in her first feature, and bold choice after bold choice make for a truly wild and fun ride in this lovely weird film.

Movie Directory

An old school film reel drawn by artist Dean Nelson.

On The Radar


Ratings

  • Recommended: Some of the best-seen movies we have ever watched and mentioned to friends, family, and strangers as films that need to be seen.
  • Positive (Worth Seeing): Whether you’ll have to go to the movies, download, or stream, movies of this category are worth your time and money with few, if any, qualms from us.
  • Mixed (Divisive): Due to this movie having a few quirks, of which may work for some and for others be a problem, we believe your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your taste.
  • Negative (Acquired Taste): While one or two elements kept us going until the end, unfortunately, we’re of the opinion this film never reached the potential it was marketed to have.

Special Categories/ Tags

  • Indie: By our definition, independent films are films you have to seek to find due to limited availability or lack of a marketing push.
  • Film Festival: Featured in this tag are films and shorts which were discovered thanks to various film festivals, so some of the productions may not have wide availability but still may deserve to be on your watch.
  • Shorts: Be it ten or fifteen minutes, or a half-hour, these quick teases or films get right to the point, often show the potential of filmmakers and the actors who have joined them in their journey.
  • Ending Spoilers: Trying to remember how a film ended, or want a different take on the ending, then check out the "ending spoilers" category. 
Movie Poster - Leonor Will Never Die
Leonor Will Never Die (2022) – Review/Summary (with Spoilers)
Who is it for?
Fans of surrealism, people interested in filmmaking and screenwriting, and anyone who has ever wanted to live in a movie
Highlights
A Surrealist Masterpiece
Leonor and Rudie
A Love Letter to Filipino Action Flicks
Disputable
The Ending
96


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Avatar of Sophie Underwood

Film and TV enthusiast who could talk about Marvel for days on end. My three main hobbies are binge-watching comically long video essays on Youtube, scouring the library for hidden cinematic gems, and taking naps with my two little dogs.

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