Lina from Lima review – funny, sultry film about a plucky economic migrant

Upending arthouse tropes with musical numbers and lashings of sex, this witty debut about a Peruvian domestic worker refuses to see its heroine as a victim

Writer-director María Paz González’s first feature takes a well-worn miserabilist trope out of the arthouse drawer – a domestic worker struggles with homesickness and faces economic inequality – and upcycles it with warmth and wit to make something quite original. It’s even funny and upbeat in its final lap. It’s something of a shock, since so many films about hard-up migrant women who go in search of better lives abroad end up with their protagonists grieving, dead or punished in some other way.

It’s hard to imagine Lina (Magaly Solier) would ever let anything like poverty or despair cramp her natural style. Plucky, hard-working and sexy AF, she’s sometimes down but never out. Originally from Peru, where she has left a fast growing-up son with her mother and ex-husband, Lina lives in Santiago, Chile, where she works for a wealthy family, mostly looking after teenage Clara while Clara’s dad is away, as he always is, on business. The two of them have a giggly, conspiratorial bond, more like cousins than employer and employee. When she’s not with Clara, lonely Lina enjoys quick and dirty hook-ups with an assortment of men, as well as daydreaming that she is the star of movie-musical sequences. González films these with aplomb, spoofing Esther Williams one minute, dressing up Lina as a chorus line Virgin Mary the next. Solier, meanwhile, busts out a lovely, expressive singing voice.

In contrast, just to cool the sultry summer hotness with some high cinematic sangfroid, there are lots of shots through windows, observing the action from a distance as the sound of sprinklers clicks away in the background. But González gets the tonal mix about right and this film suggests she’ll be a name to watch out for in the future.

• Lina from Lima is released on 23 August on Mubi.


Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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