Litigante (4 stars)


Powerful and insightful Colombian domestic drama, featuring spellbinding work from Carolina Sanín

Single parenthood is far from the only stressor in this affectingly authentic Colombian film, the second from director Franco Lolli following 2014's acclaimed Gente De Bien. It pivots around a spellbinding performance from Carolina Sanín, playing Silvia, a lawyer caring for her young son and terminally ill mother whilst dealing with corruption in her public realm workplace.

Romance is also on Silvia's overflowing agenda when she's pursued at a party by hirsute radio host Abel (Vladimir Durán), with whom she's already tangled during a testy interview. Her dying mother Leticia (a superb Leticia Gómez, Lolli's own mum) – who's gone big on self-pity – vocally disapproves of this new man, like she has of Silvia's other choices, and they bicker furiously and irresistibly, lobbing hateful accusations at each other, in what is clearly their exhausting lifelong routine, with Silvia's younger sister 'Marjo' (Alejandra Sarria) looking on in exasperation.

Beautifully shot by Luis Armando Arteaga in a way that's both intimate and discreet, the camera clings to Silvia in her sorrow and strain, capturing the way she's lost in her thoughts or forgotten amid scenes of gaiety, and how she occasionally gets swept up in happier times, allowing herself to feel fleeting moments of hope and joy. The way this intelligent and opinionated woman has been diminished by her struggles is written all over her weary face.

A film about the relentlessness of life's trials should feel like a slog, yet Litigante is anything but. Remaining gorgeously humane in its fascination with the most difficult of dynamics, it boasts a screenplay (co-written by Lolli, Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq and Virginie Legeay) which understands how affection can endure even in relationships that are defined by anger, and how when loss seems imminent the love shines through. It can be funny, too, with Leticia's maudlin outbursts tipping into full-on melodrama. 'Cover the mirrors with newspaper!' she orders, when her head is shaved following chemo.

If Leticia exaggerates her own pain, through Silvia's often-wordless worry, Sanín (Lolli's cousin and the inspiration for the character, in what is, astonishingly, her first screen performance) manages to say so much. The admiration Lolli has for his ordinary heroine and the way she keeps it together is truly touching, in a film that raises her up every time she puts herself down.

Available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from Fri 10 Jul.