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The Heiresses — a near-perfect tragicomedy

The Heiresses — a near-perfect tragicomedy

August 09
02:52 2018

Ana Brun, left, and Ana Ivanova in ‘The Heiresses’

The Heiresses is a tickling, near-perfect tragicomedy from Paraguay. The nuances are so fine you could slip them between adjacent atoms. A cruder film might just slice the atom, or atoms, to produce an explosion. Ana Brun plays Chela, gentle, sixtysomething and permanently bewildered. Her fraud-charged partner Chiquita (Margarita Irún) has been hauled off to jail. The hard-up couple were already selling their heirlooms. Now Chela lives in their flat alone, startled by freedom, adrift to socialise. There is still a car. So she acquires cash and companionship by chauffeuring women chums.

Part of the hilarity of Marcelo Martinessi’s human comedy is its gender lopsidedness. There is scarcely a man in sight: just a vast landscape of ladies who lunch (and play cards and party), with age bestowing the quirks and comedy. Chela becomes more magnetic as a main character the less she does. She drifts, shy, quizzical and dowdily adorned, like a Henry James character moving through the shadowed enigmas of an unconsummated life. She is “coming out”; but taking a long time to do it.

Sometimes Martinessi sticks in a prison scene, so we can see the butch-female, Amazonian clamour in the women’s jail yard, the exact opposite of everything happening to our Chela. Then it’s back to quietude and conundrum, lovingly and exquisitely delineated.


The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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