Starring: Ana Brun, Margarita Irun, Ana Ivanova
Director: Marcelo Martinessi
Running Time: 98 mins
The Heiresses (Las herederas) is a Paraguayan film about an old couple who, after over thirty years together, have seen their inherited wealth dwindle. Now, as one is imprisoned on charges of fraud, her partner must venture out into the world once again, unexpectedly stumbling on a newfound sense of freedom.
I was really impressed by this film. Although it’s a slow and quiet movie throughout, underneath burns a thoroughly riveting story complete with surprisingly intense dramatic tension, a brilliantly down-to-earth premise, and a wonderful elegance that makes The Heiresses an absolutely delightful watch from start to finish.
For a movie that only lasts just over 90 minutes, and seems so slow and quiet on the outside, there really is a lot to pick through here, but I’ll start with what impressed me most of all: the performances.
The great thing about the acting in this film is that it feels so genuine right the way through, with lead Ana Brun putting in an incredible turn that’s full of emotion and drama, while supporting players like Margarita Irun, Ana Ivanova and more all really add to the emotional and intimate depth of the story at hand, all playing each of their roles with a real sense of genuineness and elegance that make everyone on screen absolutely fascinating to follow throughout.
What’s even more striking about the performances here is that the most memorable and powerful moments of the film don’t come from the film’s dialogue, but rather the core of the acting. Particularly in the film’s middle act, when our leading lady, Ana Brun, encounters a real turning point in her life, there’s never a direct mention of what’s going on inside her head, nor any explicit remarks regarding the sudden change of pace and scenery she has found herself in since her partner was taken away to prison.
However, without any dialogue, Brun’s performance is so clear and effective that you’re able to tap into exactly what her character is thinking almost immediately. And there’s no sense of overacting either, but rather than down-to-earth nature of the performance shining once again as you become deeper and deeper engrossed in what evolves beautifully into a very intimate and incredibly touching story.
Of course, all of that isn’t entirely down to the performances, because director Marcelo Martinessi does a lot to make that striking turn of events work so successfully.
At the outset, the film’s slow-paced and quiet nature may make it seem rather inaccessible for casual viewers, but Martinessi does a fantastic job to keep you engrossed from the start. With a good balance between touching, patient drama and excellent humour, The Heiresses is a thoroughly entertaining watch right from the beginning, and that’s what really allows you to get engrossed in the story before things really start to turn into gear.
What’s most striking about Martinessi’s directing is how he manages to create a powerful sense of nervous energy around the whole film, even when things look perfectly normal from the outside. Following her partner’s imprisonment, our leading lady is forced to venture out into the world once again, and ends up taking up an informal job as a chauffeur. It’s a very simple premise that sees her driving her friends around town, yet with one single line of dialogue, and very clever directing right the way through, that entire side of the story is filled with very effective tension, something I really wasn’t expecting to see from the film.
And with that, the dramatic power on display is established firmly in the early second act, allowing the crux of the film’s story – that of our leading lady seeing an enormous change in her life as she discovers a new sense of freedom and independence – to really hit home over the course of the final act.
From the outside, The Heiresses is a quiet and patient piece that may not seem like the clearest opportunity for brilliant and tense drama. And yet, with a whole host of fantastic performances, a riveting and touching story, excellent direction from Marcelo Martinessi, and a combination of beautiful dramatic elegance with sweet and enjoyable humour, it’s a film that’s thoroughly engrossing, and absolutely an entertaining watch at the same time, which is why I’m giving it an 8.0.