'Illiterate' Review: Moises Sepulveda's Stage-Bound Drama

Moises Sepulveda's clunky two-hander gives unimaginative screen treatment to Pablo Paredes' play.

A woman in her 50s hides her inability to read or write in debuting helmer Moises Sepulveda’s stage-bound adaptation of Pablo Paredes’ play “Illiterate.” The sort of Afterschool Special-style item that might appeal to teachers’ unions, this clunky two-hander, in which both characters have secrets they reluctantly share, wouldn’t be playing outside Chile if not for the presence of Pauline Garcia, deservedly riding high after her star turn in “Gloria.” Unfortunately, she can’t save “Illiterate” from its self-concious source or Sepulveda’s unimaginative conception.

Solitary Ximena (Garcia) has mastered strategies for getting people to read signs she can’t interpret. Then Jackeline (Valentina Muhr) turns up, offering to read her the newspaper as her mother, Ximena’s late neighbor, once did. The young woman has a teaching degree and is eager to put it to use, but Ximena resists the semi-humiliation of being taught until Jackeline convinces her, thanks to a carefully preserved letter from Ximena’s father, which the illiterate woman now wants to decipher. Sepulveda and Paredes’ script is strictly by-the-book, unimaginatively divided into exposition, confession, catharsis. Lensing barely opens up the play, and music is intrusive.

Film Review: 'Illiterate'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Critics’ Week), Sept. 5, 2013. (Also in Chicago Film Festival — New Directors.) Running time: 73 MIN. Original title: "Las analfabetas"

Production

(Chile) A Planta, Kine imagenes, La Ventura, Provincianos Films production. (International sales: Habanero Film Sales, Rio de Janeiro.) Produced by Fernando Bascunan. Co-producers, Florencia Larrea, Alicia Scherson.

Crew

Directed by Moises Sepulveda. Screenplay, Pablo Paredes, Sepulveda, adapted from the play by Paredes. Camera (color, HD), Arnaldo Rodriguez; editor, Rodrigo Fernandez; music, Cristobal Carvajal; production designer/costume designer, Nicole Guzman; sound, Matias Valdes, Jose Palma; associate producers, Carmen Rodriguez, Angel Maulen, Daniel Hammer, Raul Bolivar; assistant director, Guillermo Salina.

With

Paulina Garcia, Valentina Muhr.

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