It won’t be to everyone’s taste and it’s certainly a slow burn that’s not trying to get anywhere at all, but Señoritas, the first feature from filmmaker Lina Rodriguez certainly captures something uniquely human and beautifully awkward. A no-frills portrayal of being an early twenty-something woman in Bogotá, Rodriguez’s eye and ear for the sometimes overlooked and important banalities of life suggests that the story could take place anywhere in the world and not necessarily be changed all that much. In its own sometimes vague and obscure way, it’s always hinting at something a lot more universal and far less confined.
A wonderful Maria Serrano stars as Alejandra, a young woman living at home with her sometimes nosy mother and having fun while living her life. Filled with long takes that give a feeling like one is dropping in on her life at random moments. It opens with a lengthy early morning backseat car ride – with an appropriately boozy, hungover feeling – and never looks back. She hangs out with friends and various men who bullshit around pools with pseudo-intellectual drunk talk that sometimes only underlines their lack of depth (“I love being a realist and stuff, dude.”). She gets ready and goes out for the night. Sometimes she ends up making up with a lucky suitior, sometimes she walks home alone. Sometimes she just stays home and masturbates or exercises.
And such is life, isn’t it? In many ways, Rodriguez’s work feels like an interesting counterpoint to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a film that also finds depth and meaning in sometimes fleeting and seemingly insignificant moments. Much like that film, Señoritas is also approaching some pointed insights into womanhood. Joining Alejandra at the point in her life when she’s between her party days and having to finally take life seriously offers a lot of loaded weight to her interactions with those around her.
In-between conversations where Alejandra gets half-heartedly dumped by a guy who can barely form a sentence and dudes talking about the potential existence of heaven while half in the bag, there are quiet moments that help to establish Alejandra as a bit of a loner and an outsider in her world. Sure, she has friends, but the moments when she’s with others are put into equal contrast where moments that find her completely alone and vulnerable. These moments are there to add tension and thoughtfulness to a story that doesn’t have a conventional narrative to spell things out with. It’s all gorgeously shot by Alex Coronado in unflinching long takes that give way to jarring edits that feel like the viewer being jolted back to life after being hypnotized. The resulting effect gives of a feeling of disconnect between Alejandra and the world around her, which ultimately seems to be the main point of the film.
It’s Jim Jarmusch and John Cassavetes by way of female led Saturday Night Fever. It takes some work to get in Rodriguez’s wavelength, but once you realize the eminently relatable emotions and experiences at the heart of Señoritas, it’s a rewarding experience that’s well worth the effort on the part of the viewer.