The opening minutes of Celia Rico Clavellino’s Luisa Is Not Home, winner of MUBI’s Cannes Short Film Competition, reveal a couple living within the walls of routine. Peering just outside the room is the camera of cinematographer David Valldepérez, who offers a voyeuristic POV every other shot leading up to the ultimate catastrophe: a broken washing machine.
There’s not much happening in Luisa Is Not Home, except an elderly woman rediscovering life. And that’s the brilliance of the film, as a simple household event inspires a walk down the street and a trip to memory lane. Now that Luisa must physically leave the comfortable confines of her headquarters, she discovers a new talkative friend (María Alfonsa Rosso) and prepares for the inevitable domestic conversation about a replacement washer. The final thump proves to be something much more than rattling clothes.
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Asunción Balaguer carries Luisa Is Not Home with her gentle performance, and the Spanish actress is no stranger to the film industry. With over 100 acting credits to her name, Balaguer illuminates each scene whether it’s Luisa struggling at the laundromat or gazing at her own reflection. The subtle body movements of Balaguer convey Luisa’s story; a woman elderly in years but still able to function and enjoy the smaller treasures that life brings.
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Clavellino’s directing expresses the emotional separation of Luisa and her husband Esteban (Fernando Guillén) via an outstanding doorway entrance shot — each character on opposite sides of a wall — and highlights their day-to-day items such as slippers, keys and, of course, the television. All of these objects seem to be waiting for someone to either pick them up or turn them on; a signal of a new chain of events to be repeated over and over again until the lights are dimmed. Unbeknownst to Esteban, his wife may not be ready for bed… not yet.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.