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The woman who left , by Lav Diaz

Tuesday 20 September 2016, by SIGNIS

Venise, September 20th, 2016 (Ana Boariu). In the Philippines, thirty years after being convicted for murder, a woman is released from prison when new evidence finally proves her innocence.

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Lav Diaz. A. BIANCHI/REUTERS

The sudden confession of an inmate lets her know that her former rich boyfriend, who could not accept to be turned down, had framed her. She returns home only to find out that her husband died, her son is missing and the only family she can still contact is her daughter. But she won’t go home. Although the woman wants to find her son, the desire for revenge stops her. She takes over a small eatery in a poor neighborhood and, night after night, she starts haunting the streets, spying on her enemy, befriending a street merchant, a foolish woman beggar and a young gay whore.

The film is advancing at small pace, yet without ever being boring. The director manages to surprise the audience with unsuspected turns of the plot, with surprising incidents that change the destiny of the main character and the flow of the movie. He chooses to slowly install the story, present the character and its surroundings. After half an hour, during which the director makes us to feel the slow pace of life in prison, we (and the woman) find out she will be suddenly released. We follow her home and then in her announced quest for her son, but we gradually realize that she is actually stalking her ex-boyfriend. When she finally decides to take action against her enemy, buy a gun and shoot him, the gay young man knocks at her door, beaten up and asks for her help. The movie goes on developing a strong compassionate relationship between the woman and this unexpected son, we could wish to be her own, when her confession about her past tragically puts an end to it. Alone and on her own, the woman leaves to look for her lost child in Manila, where the director offers us a most poetical ending.

The skills of Lav Diaz to construct a surprising film at this very slow pace, almost uniting fiction to an observational documentary on the life in a poor island of the Philippines, has been greatly rewarded with the Golden Lion at 73 Venice Film Festival.

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