In “Reinas,” director Klaudia Reynicke Candeloro achieves a languid tone as she tells the story of a father who pops out of nowhere and re-initiates contact with his daughters. The setting is Peru in the 1990s. It is a time of great political turmoil. The nation is caught in a churn. Inflation has skyrocketed, nightly curfews are the norm, and power cuts are regular. Elena (Jimena Lindo), mother to two young girls, has been trying to move out of Limu and settle in Minnesota. She has got a job opportunity there which will bolster her relocation. However, she is unable to move away with her kids without the travel consent of her husband, Carlos (Gonzalo Molina).

Carlos has been an absent father. Moreover, we sense Elena’s family hadn’t been big on her marrying him in the first place. The first time we meet Carlos is when he is driving a cab, telling his passenger that he is actually an actor. That he is a teller of tales whose veracity is left open to doubt is established in this introduction itself. He returns home to Elena, the kids and her family seemingly after a long time. We aren’t told what he has been doing all this while or how long he has been away and out of touch.

This ambiguity becomes the springboard for speculations that are consequently made. He is a quick, playful spinner of stories, pulling you in with teasing and posturing of authenticity. Elena and her family remain wary of him as he attempts to make amends and enquire about how everyone has been keeping up. We sense Carlos’s disappearance from Elena’s life, and she has had to pretty much look after her kids by herself. She is tired of his sudden interruptions in her life and has already moved on.

Reinas (2024) ‘Sundance’ Movie Review
A still from Reinas (2024)

So, Carlos tries his charms on his kids, who have also palpably drifted away from him. Elena has to intervene to help Carlos re-establish in his daughters, Aurora (Luana Vega) and Lucia (Abril Gjurinovic), some degree of affection and tenderness for him. He promises to take them to the beach. Lucia is enthused about it, but Carlos doesn’t show up on the day he said he would. He only arrives randomly a few days after, without a hint of an apology.

The disappointed Lucia is reluctant, but Carlos manages to persuade her otherwise. Rather quickly, he wins his kids over with his spryness. Carlos puts his raconteur skills to use, impressing his younger daughter’s tales of a secret identity. She is captivated, but her elder sister initially isn’t. Aurora is going through her own set of issues with her boyfriend on the cusp of moving away, reflecting on the prospect of a long-distance relationship.

“Reinas” leans into precarity and uncertainty the present can occupy. For the young, what then can they hold onto as they try to come to grips with all the surrounding instability? Lucia and Aurora have a push-pull relationship. The willingly compliant younger one wants the solace of a family, whereas the elder strains for freedom, pursuing recklessness. This interpersonal portrait is pitched against a fraught political landscape. Candeloro maintains a sure hand with the sisters, but the film treads shaky ground when it angles toward the father. He is positioned as someone projecting a certain enigma he weaponizes to tilt things in his favor.

Much of the film is through Lucia’s observation. She intently watches Carlos as he chats with supposed friends. He plays with her curiosity, stoking it to gain the intimacy with his daughters he missed out on, which he now hopes to restore. Carlos is almost blind to his irresponsibility, convinced he can reason his kids into believing in any of his stories. The film traces the gradual realization of the daughters as they re-negotiate their relationship with Carlos and hold out some space for him in their lives despite his erratic tendencies. They grow to see the sincerity in his intent while he struggles to patch his life together.

Vega and Gjurinovic bring all the emotional heft and texture to the film in performance sparkling with hurt and trepidation as their characters try to forge an idea of what the new, dramatic shift in their lives will entail. The acting across the board helps tide over the duller patches in the writing, endowing the film with a wellspring of emotionally radiant strength and tenacity.

Read More: 10 Great Dysfunctional Family Films of the Decade (2010s)

Reinas (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Reinas (2024) Movie: Abril Gjurinovic, Luana Vega, Jimena Lindo, Gonzalo Molina, Susi Sánchez
Reinas (2024) Movie Genre: Drama, Runtime: 1h 45m

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