An exciting, emerging talent in Rodriguez who, despite the film’s flaws, has made an assured debut.
Lina Rodriguez’s Señoritas opens with a lengthy shot of Alejandra (María Serrano) looking out a car window as she goes around Bogotá. Rodriguez, a Canadian-based filmmaker from Colombia, went back home to shoot her debut feature in Bogotá, an interesting choice considering the city doesn’t really feature too much in the film. Alejandra is the only thing in focus in this opening scene, making the view outside the car window nothing more than a moving blur. Rodriguez’s choice of location is a dead giveaway that Señoritas is a personal work. And while Rodriguez shows off great directorial skills, the film feels too introspective to make an impact on viewers.
Alejandra’s life appears to be the definition of aimless youth. She lives with her mother (Clara Monroy, Rodriguez’s own mother) in a small apartment, and spends most nights going out with her small group of friends or finding someone to sleep with. Alejandra appears to be unemployed (there are no mentions of her employment situation, and no scenes of her working), but the film’s ambivalence makes it hard to be certain about anything; Rodriguez might have chosen to focus only on Alejandra’s life at home and with her friends. Alejandra’s small circle of friends provides some level of complexity in her life; she has an on-again, off-again relationship with friend Tomás (Sebastián Cuevas Iriarte), and her best friend Véronica (Angela Katherine Laverde) also has a relationship with one of the guys in their group.
Rodriguez effectively communicates Alejandra’s internal struggles with director of photography Alejandro Coronado. Scenes unfold in long takes, with the camera usually fixed in one spot. Focus in each shot tends to be extremely shallow, blurring everything except what’s right in front of the camera. What emerges is a feeling of isolation and stagnation, all achieved through Rodriguez’s direction and Coronado’s cinematography. But these feelings, like the rest of the film, aren’t concrete. Rodriguez deliberately keeps things open for interpretation with Alejandra. Her solitude could easily be interpreted as independence or selfishness. No matter what people feel about Alejandra, Señoritas establishes her as a character in transition.
Señoritas does get by with its well-defined aesthetics, but only for a short amount of time. Scenes like Alejandra and Victoria dancing in a club, the pulsating music and camera veering in and out of focus, work extremely well. But as the film goes along, and Rodriguez’s game plan becomes clear, it starts to lose its good will. Scenes feel like they’re too dependent on art house clichés, like an 8 minute single take following Alejandra walking around a park late at night. The air of mystery surrounding its central character changes from intriguing to deliberately vague and obtuse, a method to avoid exploring things further. Youthful ennui isn’t exactly fresh or exciting material to cover, and while Señoritas takes an interesting approach, it isn’t able to successfully sustain itself over the entirety of its runtime. What the film does show is an exciting, emerging talent in Rodriguez who, despite the film’s flaws, has made an assured debut.