×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes Film Review: ‘Litigante’

There are few fireworks in Franco Lolli's lived-in study of a single mother in personal and professional turmoil, but it delivers slower-burning rewards.

Director:
Franco Lolli
With:
Carolina Sanín, Leticia Gómez, Antonio Martínez, Vladimir Durán, Alejandra Sarria, David Roa

1 hour 35 minutes

Colombian writer-director Franco Lolli wrongfoots us a little with the title of his sophomore feature “Litigante”: Unsuspecting audiences may go in expecting a courtroom drama, not least given that its protagonist is an embattled public-sector lawyer. As it turns out, for fortyish single mother Silvia — played with utterly credible, bone-deep weariness by the superb Carolina Sanin — family life provides most of her trials. As she shoulders the various, intermeshing stresses of caring for her cancer-stricken mother, handling an office corruption crisis and embarking on an awkwardly timed new romance, Silvia is pushed close to a breaking point that she impressively never quite reaches. In turn, “Litigante,” affecting and intelligently observed as it is, falls just short of a rewarding dramatic crescendo: It’s a film of small, precisely rendered moments rather than major emotional flourishes.

That should be enough for this small-scale Franco-Colombian production to build a case for itself on the festival circuit after kicking off this year’s Cannes Critics’ Week program: It should at least match the profile of Lolli’s similarly modest, accomplished 2014 debut “Gente de Bien,” which likewise bowed in Critics’ Week before scooping up a number of further festival honors. International distribution prospects are less certain, but this is just the kind of intimate, broadly relatable and smallscreen-friendly arthouse item that major streaming outlets are adding to their rosters in growing numbers of late.

It’s likely that many viewers, after watching “Litigante,” will hit up IMDb to find out what else the film’s sterling leady lady Sanin has been in: It has the feel of a belated breakout vehicle for a long-deserving character actress in the mold of Spain’s Barbara Lennie. So it’s a surprise to discover that Sanin is instead a gifted non-pro: A prominent Colombian writer and academic who also happens to be Lolli’s cousin: She served as the director’s inspiration for Silvia before art and life were deemed inseparable on this front. The family affair extends to Lolli’s own mother, Leticia Gómez, playing Silvia’s proud, quarrelsome mom Leticia, who’s gradually giving in to lung cancer whilst holding on to a relentless verbal fighting instinct. “Litigante’s” many scenes of loaded domestic conflict have a nervy authenticity that perhaps betrays Lolli’s close-to-home casting preferences.

It’s this running current of fraught argumentative energy between loved ones that gives “Litigante” its vigor, even as the storytelling is entirely straightforward. We’re quickly immersed into what has obviously been a long-running love-hate dynamic between Silvia and Leticia, herself a former lawyer, who are entirely too alike to get alike to get along peaceably, even as the rapid metastasis of Leticia’s cancer makes it clear they’re on borrowed time. So they spend every available moment together regardless, chipping away at each other at home and in hospital rooms alike, with their mutual adoration of Silvia’s young son Antonio (Antonio Martinez) often serving to smooth the waters between them; meanwhile, Silvia’s far milder-mannered younger sister Maria-Jose (Alejandra Sarria, excellent) patiently weathers the other two women’s feuding.

Inevitably, Silvia’s aggravation over her family situation seeps into the office, as relations between her and her superior at the Bogotá public-works department grow increasingly tense and fractious. Embroiled in a brewing municipal corruption scandal for which she has to provide a calm public front, she’s unnerved by a radio interview with hard-driving liberal journalist Abel (Vladimir Durán), only to be stunned to find herself falling for him on a chance second encounter. Their tender, burgeoning relationship, however, also soon falls prey to Silvia’s rattled state of mind, while the familial pressure-cooker at home soon has even cherubic Antonio acting out in response.

Co-written with Marie Amachoukeli and Virginie Legeay, Lolli’s script keeps as many balls in the air as its put-upon heroine does, but doesn’t feel overplotted. Rather, “Litigante’s” various, fretting strands add up to a honest, empathetic portrait of overburdened modern motherhood — at least, until an abrupt, anti-climactic conclusion that leaves a few too many ends frayed. It feels a somewhat forced wrap-up to a film that in all other respects — from its convincingly creased, inhabited performances to Luis Armando Arteaga’s fluid, tactile lensing — aims to evoke these women’s lives at their own anxious, occasionally exhausted pace.

Popular on Variety

Cannes Film Review: 'Litigante'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 16, 2019. Running time: 95 MIN.

Production: (Colombia-France) A Les Films du Worso, SRAB Films, Evidencia Films production. (International sales: Kinology, Paris.) Producers: Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral, Daniel García, Franco Lolli, Sylvie Pialat, Benoît Quainon.

Crew: Director: Franco Lolli. Screenplay: Lolli, Marie Amachoukeli, Virginie Legeay. Camera (color): Luis Armando Arteaga. Editors: Nicolas Desmaison, Julie Duclaux.

With: Carolina Sanín, Leticia Gómez, Antonio Martínez, Vladimir Durán, Alejandra Sarria, David Roa. (Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • 'Talking About Trees' Helmer Suhaib Gasmelbari

    'Talking About Trees' Director Suhaib Gasmelbari Receives Variety MENA Award

    Suhaib Gasmelbari, whose Sudanese documentary “Talking About Trees” premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama section, received the Variety Middle East and North Africa Region Talent Award Saturday at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt from festival director Intishal Al Timimi. Variety critic Jay Weissberg, who selected the honoree, said that it is not usual that [...]

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content