The Heiresses, written and directed by Marcelo Martinessi, is a new Paraguayan drama that is unlikely to make a particularly big splash stateside. Perhaps due to the fact that a majority of the film’s commentary feels aimed at residents of its home country or possibly because it just isn’t that compelling, this movie is ultimately far less entertaining than it should be.
The film follows a lesbian couple who, both having descended from wealthy families and not used to their newfound financial burden, face new experiences when one goes to prison under fraud charges and the other must begin to work to make ends meet. This story sounds a lot more exciting on paper than it is in execution. In reality, we are watching a very dialogue-heavy movie with a thin plot and even thinner character development.
After a while, the film does the same thing over and over again so many times that you will be waiting for it to be over. Although this story could have made for a hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy, a wonderful mid-life crisis drama, or even a solid romance about lovers being separated, what we get instead is an overly slow drama that is constantly meditating on things without any rhyme or reason.
Perhaps the movie’s biggest issue is that it can’t really decide who its target audience is. The film seems to be, at least to some extent, a commentary on the class system, particularly in Paraguay. However, to whom is this movie addressed? Is it a cautionary tale to the upper class warning them that they could lose everything at any moment? Or is it a tale of humanity for the lower class showing that there aren’t that many differences between them and the upper class? Maybe it’s neither? The film really could have benefitted from additional clarity in this regard.
The movie also struggles with character development, although this is largely tied to the film’s other issues. The reason that it is hard to sympathize with the characters is not that they are unlikable, but rather, that not enough happens for us to truly care about them. Since so much of what is happening feels so mundane, the audience is largely unable to get a glimpse of the personality of the characters in a more complex sense.
The actors do a good enough job in their roles, but again, they aren’t given enough to do to be particularly memorable. That said, a phenomenal performance can single-handedly elevate a drama like this from being mediocre to something actually worthwhile, and that does not seem to be the case here. Instead, the lead actresses seem to be little more than readers of lines, and while their delivery is natural, there isn’t much more to their turns.
On a technical level, the movie does look pretty strong, but that doesn’t make up for the film’s lack of narrative steam. If anything, the nice visuals actually hurt the movie somewhat. The visuals can sometimes distract you from what is actually happening, and that is never a good thing. There really isn’t that much happening that is particularly important, though, so if you find yourself looking more at the background than the foreground a bit too often, you are unlikely to miss much.
The Heiresses fails to stand out from the sea of other genres out there. The fatal flaw of the film is that it fails to answer the question that Marinessi should have asked himself (and you may even be asking yourself after watching it): who cares?
The Heiresses hits VOD on August 20.