Litigante (M) - 95 minutes
A series of fine, natural performances led by Carolina Sanín highlight an emotionally wrought slice of life piece set in Bogota, Columbia.
Silvia (Sanín) is a single mother of a four-year-old son, Antonio (Antonio Martínez).
Life is hard for her, in fact a never-ending juggle and a constant struggle.
She has a most responsible job, as Deputy Legal Director of a government department.
At the same time, she and her sister Majo (Alejandra Sarria) are caring for their terminally ill mother (she has lung cancer), Leticia (Leticia Gómez*), with whom Silvia has never seen eye to eye.
That doesn’t mean that Silvia doesn’t love her mother, simply that the pair constantly argues.
Then, by reluctantly attending a party with a dear friend, Silvia sees a guy, Abel (Vladimir Durán), she can’t stand.
Their only previous encounter was when Abel interviewed Silvia on radio, asking some hard questions. Those came in the wake of Silvia's department being accused of corruption – of misuse of public funds.
Understandably, with this unexpected second meeting, Silvia wants nothing to do with Abel, but he manages to win her over and the pair begins a relationship (which her mother rails against).
Silvia’s plate is full. Her son is playing up at school, her boss is demanding and decidedly slippery, and her mother’s condition is worsening, but there is more.
Just who is the father of Silvia’s son and why isn’t he in the picture?
Litigante may not be the most relatable or stimulating title.
It may not cause you to rush out and see this film, but I am here to tell you it is an insightful snapshot of a messy but ordinary, upper middle-class life.
The stresses that Silvia feels are palpable. There is a sense of chaos – of waiting for the next brick to fall.
All the while Silvia is fighting for more order, for more responsibility to be shown and taken by those around her.
At times her ability to cope and make the most of her situation is called into question.
That isn’t helped by the constant haranguing by her mother, who begins by stridently refusing treatment and continuing to smoke.
Litigante feels raw and that boils down to not only Sanín’s performance, but to the roles assumed by all the principals and supports.
In particular, it is impossible to ignore the depth of feeling displayed by Gómez as the mother who knows the end is near.
Leticia’s personality is combative and she wears it as a badge of honour.
Silvia’s new boyfriend, too, is portrayed as a fun-loving bear of a man.
I dare say most, if not all of us, will be able to relate to the scattered life Silvia is leading.
No straight lines here – just scribbles on a page, as if drawn by, “yes”, a four-year-old.
Plaudits to Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq, Virginie Legeay and Franco Lolli for the “realistic” script and to the latter for his direction of this Spanish language film.
While Litigante won’t suit all tastes, I found it a compelling picture of trying to restore a sense of order and balance that most of us struggle with.
And let me finish with a free editorial – it is certainly true to say that for the vast majority the human condition simply doesn’t allow for order or balance.
Rated M, Litigante scores a 7½ out of 10.
* Leticia Gómez, who plays Silvia’s mother, is the film director and co-writer Franco Lolli’s mother. She was in remission from a cancer battle of her own while filming.
Further, Carolina Sanín – a well-known writer and feminist figure in Colombia – who takes the pivotal role of Silvia, is Lolli’s cousin.
Neither are trained actors.