In a film that seeks to be true to life, people face the need to fight to keep going.


It was just over five years ago that we saw Gente de Bien the first feature film from Franco Lolli who, despite having studied in Paris, chose to set that work in his home city of Bogotá in Colombia. Now at last we have his second feature and this new piece, Litigante, is again located there. If his first feature established Lolli as a filmmaker keen to avoid both sentimentality and melodrama (an approach equally evident this time around), it also evidenced Lolli's desire to portray everyday life. Indeed, its virtues marked it out as a promising debut, but all the same it was weakened for me by writing that often failed to fill in all the details needed if we were to fully understand and identify with the characters. That failure to grasp what was required to give the material its full power may have been due to his being too close to the material to judge correctly in this respect.


Happily, Litigante is a great step forward although I do have to confess that I find the choice of title rather odd. The film plunges straight in by showing a medical test which confirms that a retired lawyer, Leticia Medina (Leticia Gómez), is in need of chemotherapy to combat cancer. She has the support of her older daughter, Silvia (Carolina Sanin), whose own legal career has led her into the public sector, but Silvia is often at loggerheads with her mother. Her younger sister, María José (Alejandra Sarria), is also on hand to help. Initially it may be thought that, like last year's admirable Ordinary Love, Litigante is primarily a drama about coping with cancer and by starting on this particular note it certainly draws the audience in immediately because what we see is a convincing portrayal of a situation that invites an emotional response even before we get to know the characters.


This thread in the film proves to be a powerful one, but as the film proceeds one realises that above all Lolli wants to give us a wholly convincing slice of life. He seeks to achieve this through unobtrusive direction and by obtaining utterly persuasive performances from his cast (amazingly both Gómez and Sanin are non-professionals and there is a wonderfully natural contribution from Antonio Martinez in the role of the 5-year-old Antonio, the son being brought up by Silvia as a single mother). What Lolli's film brings out so well is the fact that in real life so much goes on at one and the same time: the situation regarding the mother's health may be crucial but Silvia has to handle so much more as well. As it happens it is at this time that she finds herself caught up in a charge of corruption primarily aimed at the agency for which she works but also involving her personally and placing her in a situation that will lead her to consider resigning from her post. Furthermore, there's the fact that young Antonio is getting into trouble at school and on top of that Silvia's mother takes against the radio journalist (Vladimir Durán) who might just possibly fill the gap in Silvia's life as husband and father figure. In the background too is the question of whether or not Antonio should eventually be introduced to the father he has never met (Jorge Carreño). All of these elements are in play, but never in a way that feels forced and it's also the case that, as in life, not everything reaches a neat resolution. Some viewers might prefer to have everything tied up neatly, but Lolli's achievement is to capture the complexity of life itself in a work that eschews artifice.




Cast: Carolina Sanin, Leticia Gómez, Vladimir Durán, Antonio Martinez, Alejandra Sarria, David Roa, Jeidys Nuñez, Jorge Carreño.


Dir Franco Lolli, Pro Toufik Ayadi, Christophe  Barral, Franco Lolli, Sylvie Pialat and Benoît Quainon, Screenplay Franco Lolli, Virginie Legeay and Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq, Ph Luis Armando Arteaga, Art Dir Marcela Gómez Montoya, Ed Nicolas Desmaison and Julie Duclaux, Music Pierre Desprats, Costumes Juliana Hoyos.


Evidencia Films-Curzon.
93 mins. Colombia/France. 2019. Rel: 10 July 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. No Cert.