‘So Much Tenderness’ Review: A Different Phase of the Immigration Experience

TIFF: Lina Rodríguez’s film about a Colombian woman who rebuilds her life in Toronto shows the struggle of feeling forever out of place.

There are many stories about the immigrant experience, and unfortunately when it comes to stories that focus on the Latinx community, many of them focus on the trauma of immigration itself — crossing borders, being threatened by immigration officials, racism trying to adapt – or the multi-generational effect of years of immigration later. But rarely do we see a film about what happens between those two things, what it’s like after you migrate, after you find a routine and settle in and settle into your new home, and the daily struggles of not really belonging feel everywhere, fragmented and divided between two places. Lina Rodríguez’s latest film, So Much Tenderness, sheds a poignant light on the persistent disorientation and fragmentation of the immigrant experience, leaving the audience as out of place as its protagonist.

This sense of uneasiness and disorientation is already present in the opening scene, in which we follow Aurora (Noëlle Schönwald) as she meets up with a white woman and her husband, before getting into the trunk of her car in complete silence, seemingly in front of something Fear. In the first 15 minutes of the film hardly a word is spoken, there is no score at all, no relaxation that forces the viewer to think about what is actually going on here. Will she be kidnapped or helped? It’s not until the couple reaches the Canadian border that we understand they smuggled Aurora.

She turned out to be an environmental lawyer in Colombia, but when her husband was murdered under mysterious circumstances (the film suggests her communications with corrupt companies may have had something to do with it, but no clear answers are given), she left Aurora follows her life, her family and her daughter to seek a second chance.

Although we see her navigate the immigration process and face scrutiny from Canadian authorities as she applies for refugee status, the film doesn’t really care about that. Instead, we’re skipping the settling-in period and jumping forward in time six years to reunite with Aurora after she’s already settled in, found a steady job, a group of friends, and now lives in Toronto with her daughter. Herein lies So Much Tenderness’ greatest strength, as Lina Rodríguez decides to skip the story that many of us are familiar with. Instead of showing the beginning of the immigration story, it shows how such a life-changing event stays with you and continues to affect every aspect of your daily life years later. We see this in Aurora, a woman who now has a life, friends, a job, a community, and a hot boyfriend, but is never quite comfortable. Both she and her daughter have made new lives for themselves, but they can’t shake the traumatic and painful tragedy that forced them to leave their homes in the first place.

We don’t see big dramatic moments from similar films, like the threat of losing a visa or being deported or the tension of crossing the border, but rather the uncomfortable or mundane. As you are always asked where you are from based on your accent, how your job, your education, your ward at home does not carry over to your new home (Aurora works as a Spanish teacher when she was a lawyer). As the only means of communication you have with your home country and loved ones is through a phone call. In a way, this feels like a spiritual sequel to the film Blast Beat, another Colombian film that captured the smaller details of everyday life as an immigrant.

Here Rodríguez places great emphasis on language, particularly the Spanish version of the verb “to be,” which in Spanish is split into two separate verbs, one of which indicates a temporary state of “as you are,” as opposed to a permanent onset. what you are.” This film is about the impossibility of this permanent state as an immigrant, how everything about you splits, merges, transforms and eventually becomes different because of the experience. In this regard, a scene with two characters performing Spanglish entertained, at one of the best portrayals of the language in recent memory, with the two characters switching from Spanish to English mid-conversation, mixing in first words, then sentences and then whole answers, moving from one language to the next.

To accentuate the sense of unease, “So Much Tenderness” is devoid of a musical score that could provide an emotional ending. Likewise, a slow, non-linear editing helps confuse the viewer, making them feel like Aurora, with memories of her time in Colombia flooding her at seemingly random moments.

Now it has to be said that while the film positions itself as the story of a woman trying to rebuild her life before someone from her traumatic past threatens to ruin it all, So Much Tenderness doesn’t really care . The past influences the present, but the film avoids finding cheap thrills with a story of revenge or danger. Instead, it opts for a quieter, hyper-specific yet fairly universal story about building a new life for yourself without being able to completely separate from your previous one.

Grade: C+

So Much Tenderness premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It doesn’t have US distribution yet.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/09/so-much-tenderness-review-lina-rodriguez-1234760677/ ‘So Much Tenderness’ Review: A Different Phase of the Immigration Experience

Lindsay Lowe

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