So Much Tenderness reunites me with Colombian-Canadian filmmaker Lina Rodriguez eight years after reviewing her feature-length debut Señoritas. While I can see a bit of growth between then and now, Rodriguez is still stuck in her naturalistic, fly-on-the-wall approach to personal character studies.
In this glacially-paced drama, environmental lawyer Aurora (Noëlle Schönwald) has sought out refuge in Canada after her husband is mysteriously killed. We see her flee across the border from Colombia and then, after some additional information is explained about Aurora’s backstory, the film fast-forwards to the refugee’s contemporary lifestyle in Toronto. Despite finding new roots and separating herself from the past, some new reminders and concerning sightings have Aurora second-guessing her identity.
So Much Tenderness is quiet and meditative for the most part, but Rodriguez injects her story with thrilling spurts. There’s a surprise appearance by a potential accomplice to Aurora’s late husband’s murder, which is intriguing (especially when she spots him and subtly tracks him from the TTC and through downtown Toronto); and the movie starts out strong as we observe Aurora’s tense escape. However, the filmmaker still collects long silences that are exaggerated and unrealistic, as well as includes redundant conversations that may feel authentic but either stall the story or a character’s development. If these storytelling choices are in line with Rodriguez’s vision, then the writer/director needs to focus on making shorter features to tighten up the narrative.
So Much Tenderness is a step in the right direction for Lina Rodriguez. It’s a small step, but a step nevertheless.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie