Life in Bogotá, the Colombian capital, is closing in on weary, likeable fortysomething middle-class professional Silvia (Carolina Sanín) in this intense snapshot of one modern life over several months. Silvia’s fractious, glass-half-empty mother Leticia (Leticia Gómez) has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer; Silvia’s reputation as a public-sector lawyer is under threat when she finds herself in the middle of a blossoming corruption scandal; and her cute five-year-old son Antonio (Antonio Martinez) is being bullied at school for not having a dad – yet another reminder of the struggle of bringing up a kid alone and trying to hold down a big job in the big city. Add to all this a new relationship – Silvia has fallen for Abel (Vladimir Durán), a fun-loving journalist she first met when he humiliated her live on radio – and there’s not much room for Silvia in Silvia’s world.
This is the second film from French-trained Colombian filmmaker Franco Lolli, and it’s a real kick to discover not only that Silvia is played by a first-time actor – Sanin completely inhabits the role of Silvia; hers is a masterclass in quiet naturalism – but also that the sniping, dying matriarch, Leticia, is played by Lolli’s mother. This careful casting must be one reason why Litigante feels so lived-in: the film’s easy, low-key rhythms and tone make it feel like a rounded, true portrait of a life.
What Litigante gives us is a crunch time – a point of crisis – but Lolli swerves high drama and showdowns, even if there are plenty of shouts and tears along the way. Its portrayal of terminal illness hitting a family is especially adept and thoughtful, and Lolli is good at hinting at the ins and outs and accumulated stories of several relationships without laying it on too thick in the moment. It’s a film that’s better at observation than resolution – its later scenes feel a little underwhelming – but it’s still a careful, sympathetic portrait of one woman’s identity clashing with the pushes and pulls of her various lives – family, personal and professional.
Available to stream in the UK via Curzon Home Cinema.