Editors Note: “Price is Right” is a running column from local film enthusiast Mr. Price. He reviews selected Strasburg Film Festival films. If he posts a negative review, then the Shenandoah Film Collaborative will respond within his reviews as to why we selected the certain film. By going about it this way, we can help ensure the reader that these are honest film reviews.
“Elena” is a sometimes endearing, sometimes melancholy slice-of-life style short film exploring the life of the titular Elena. Taking place over a short period of time, the film focuses on Elena’s struggle with her sexuality and her unhealthy relationship with her grandmother. During the short time we spend with Elena, the film delivers a subtle but profound look into her experience.
“Elena” begins in media res with the title character already struggling with her relationship with her grandmother. Throughout the film, we are given implicit information about Elena and her life but rarely are things made explicit. This serves an interesting function, letting us see the impact of events in Elena’s life without being given the full story behind them. The result of this is that we as the audience are tied more closely to Elena herself, and to the effect rather than the cause of her pain. Director Ayerim Villanueva has stated that she wishes the film to be understood the world over without explanation, and on this point the film absolutely delivers. Elena’s loneliness and heartache, as well as her quiet joy when with Julia, are written clearly in the performance of Mar Jiménez independently of the film’s limited dialogue.
“Elena” drops us into the middle of the protagonist’s story, and from that moment on delivers an aching meditation on love and loss. Despite the sometimes bleak nature of “Elena”, the film also manages to deliver solidly on its small moments of happiness. The balance achieved by this is what makes “Elena” into a story that is exceptionally beautiful in its simplicity.