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Swiss-Peruvian filmmaker uses the conflict between the Government of Peru and the Maoist guerilla group Shining Path as a chilling reminder of the perils afflicting everyday life - from the 40th edition of Sundance

Two sisters living in Lima reconnect with their estranged father before they leave for America with their mother so they can start a new chapter of their lives. This story of reconciliation between fathers and their offspring has been represented countless times in the rich history of cinema, incorporating themes of redemption, love, and forgiveness. In recent memory alone there’s been Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper (a highlight of British cinema in 2023), as well as Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere (2010), and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014). So, without feeling like a rehashed idea, something else needs to rise from within. Reynicke does a fantastic job in using the Peruvian conflict as a backdrop; a constant thorn that could erupt in the story at any point, but doesn’t allow it to take centre stage, which forces a wonderful relationship between a father and his daughters to bubble up from its core.

Carlos (Gonzalo Molina), the girl’s father, is quite the character, and the opening scene allows us to find out what type of person he is. “I’m not really a taxi driver, you know,” as Carlos explains his acting talents to a customer who couldn’t care less. Carlos is a compulsive liar; it becomes a defence mechanism when his own failings are questioned, as well as improving the opinion his daughters have of their absent dad. The girls in question, Aurora and Lucía (Luana Vega and Abril Gjurinovic respectively) have been predominantly raised by their mother Elena (Jimena Lindo) and grandmother Abuela (Susi Sánchez). With tensions rising in Lima due to the ongoing conflict, Elena decides to move the three of them to the US, where her new job offers a comfortable new beginning. Reinas’ wheels begin to turn a few days before the big move, as Carlos attempts to build bridges with his girls before being separated once again.

The expectancy of children who rely on absent parents to take responsibility is one as old as time, but in the movies, it makes for emotional and poignant storytelling. The longing, the waiting, the ultimate feeling of being let down results in even the most naïve of children becoming numb to this feeling – although, even absent fathers tend to pull through in the end, and children have a habit of forgetting and forgiving. The combination of Reynicke’s writing and Molina’s acting evolves Carlos into a really likeable character, even with his flaws. There’s a tragic sadness to the guy who seems to be living off former glories and community legend, so when we do experience those joyous moments on the beach and driving across the sand dunes with his girls, it results in something quite sweet and authentic.

Reinas is a little slow at times, and characters have no background. We know nothing of Carlos and Elena’s former relationship or what he’s really been up to after all these years; whether the conflict was something that affected them more than what was eventually shown – it’s all left up to the viewer’s interpretation. For some, the main theme being highlighted by Reynicke might just be vulnerability because it inflicts every main character in the film. Carlos’ becomes exposed to the thought of losing his children and retreats into a shell, while the girls are hesitant about opening up to this ‘stranger’ as a means of not becoming hurt once more. Even Elena’s vulnerability shines through as she worries about her daughters reconciling with their father and therefore, wanting to stay with him instead.

This film delivers feelings of mixed emotions. It’s light-hearted in its theme, tone, and genre, with shades of comedy often seeping through as well, but there are not enough layers for it to become one of the more memorable films that delve into this topic (such as those aforementioned films), but it has enough care and nuance to deliver its overriding message. There is a real insistence to highlight the life of a community though with how the citizens carry on their lives with such chaos happening on their own streets, but it never takes over. The natural instinct would be to let it engulf the story, so, once again, praise must go to Reynicke for not falling into this easy trap (even though no one could blame her for doing so) and creating a lovely little family drama instead.

Reinas just premiered in the 40th edition of Sundance.

By John McDonald - 23-01-2024

Failing from the seaside town of Southport but now living in Liverpool, John McDonald has had a passion for cinema since he was a small child. The westerns of John Wayne were his gateway into the cine...

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