The Woman Who Left Screen 88 of 16 reviews

The Woman Who Left

2016

The Woman Who Left Poster
  • Diaz is helped greatly by Santos-Concio; though she retired from acting for decades, her work here, steely and murderous in one scene, motherly and kind in the next, is yet another in a line of show-stopping central female performances in Diaz films. Horacio and Hollanda are two of Diaz’s most memorable creations, and the sentiment of their warm scenes together is perhaps more representative of Diaz as a filmmaker and melodramatist than the forbidding reputation he’s developed.

  • Diaz marries his sweeping narrative arc with supreme visual restraint. The flourishes of Dostoyevsky's histrionic style and Tolstoy's lush details are absent from the director's monochromatic feature. . . . Diaz's long takes can slip into a pedestrian mode, but there is suppleness to his night photography. The rich chiaroscuros evoke noirish dread, especially in scenes near the end of the film, as Horacia searches for her disappeared son in the streets and bazaars of Manila.

  • All this unfolds in images and sounds that are crystal clear, sharp, stupendous and tremendous in their unadorned simplicity—generous and caring like little else recently.

  • The film proved moving because its aesthetic eschewed empty razzle-dazzle and combined neorealist earnestness with noiresque expressionism. An unabashed melodrama from a director known for difficult and extremely long modernist sagas, the film is both a spirited salvo against a legacy of repression in The Philippines and a homage to one woman’s endurance against the odds.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Jordan Cronk
    November 04, 2016 | Toronto | December 2016 Issue (p. 55

    The Woman Who Left is, like all of the Filipino filmmaker's work, an advertisement for the theatrical experience. The film would not register with the same impact on anything less than a cinema screen, not just because of its runtime, but because of the long takes and monochromatic aesthetic.

  • The next stop for the Venice winner, The Woman Who Left, is here in Toronto, and compared to the 8-hour historical deep dive of Lullaby, it’s a much more spare and thereby pointed drama.

  • Shot in stark, black-and-white digital video in humble, sometimes impoverished locales, the story opens and closes like an accordion, alternately bringing you into Horacia’s private reveries and thrusting you out into the larger, often alien milieu. Dickensian in scope, this is a great achievement from an exemplar of the art.

  • At once over-repetitive and less surprisingly digressive than some of his other films, The Woman Who Left may not represent Diaz at his absolute peak, but it’s a powerful, thoughtful melodrama that pulls you into its world and delivers a number of irresistible emotional coups.

  • Its deliberately rambling heft evokes the lingering, far-reaching sorrow of an entire nation. That doesn’t entirely quell the sense of strong material being over-extended, particularly in a murky middle stretch, but this occasionally transcendent opus finds Diaz’s formal powers — not least his own incisive monochrome lensing — at full strength.

  • The film is part of Diaz’s greater project: dramatizing the history of the Philippines as the sign of a sort of philosophical fragility of the world (it’s not by chance the film is inspired by Tolstoy’s short story “God Sees the Truth, But Waits,” a parable about murder and forgiveness). Diaz also continues to challenge himself by looking for a new identity of cinema, rewriting rules, narration, and the senses of time and space.

  • These final moments abandon the rhythm Diaz had established over the preceding few hours as if to prove that life is always capable of slipping from our grasp and reorienting itself. No matter the steps we take to gain back some measure of control, we are no match for the aimless designs of the world upon which we so casually tread. That a film this busy can find such focus in its closing moments says that whatever Diaz's methods of inspiration and creation, he knows exactly what he's doing.

  • The film is put together like a prosumer-video adaptation of a tough 19th-century novel, in that its sloggiest and most patience-trying passages are closely linked to the more rewarding qualities of the portrait of ambivalent vengeance and grace that it creates inside of itself. One can admit that it’s tediously long, and that it meanders pointlessly in the middle, and still appreciate its long-take longueurs as a backdrop.

  • It takes five or six minutes to read Tolstoy’s fable about unjust imprisonment, “God Sees the Truth, But Waits.” Afterward, you might spend a few years absorbing its lessons... By contrast, it’s the work of almost four hours to view The Woman Who Left, which Diaz has based on Tolstoy’s story. . . . If you last through the finale, you might feel that Diaz’s lessons—bite-size compared to Tolstoy’s—have been consumed along the way, leaving nothing but peanut shells. And yet it has its strengths.

  • This is a filmmaker who is telling the Story of the Philippines, and doing it quite well. By contrast, The Woman Who Left is much more of a Brechtian lehrstück, focusing on a single character whose essential decency reflects the characteristics that will save the nation, particularly in the face of Rodrigo Duterte’s murder state.

  • Diaz displays the steadfast endurance of those who bear up under gross inequities in long, static, black-and-white shots that emphasize the grandeur and the dignity of their struggles, exchanging psychology for politics, but the pace is an anti-ornamental affectation that artificially distends an hour’s worth of action.

  • Diaz's long-take, chiaroscuro style excels at capturing the grubby texture and atmosphere of ghostly estrangement that permeates the Philippines's forsaken working-class quarters. . . . What the style is less well suited to is dramatizing the soul-bearing commiseration that dominates the film's narrative... Well-meaning as it all is, The Woman Who Left suffers by resembling arty, didactic bloat when it most begs for a more sophisticated dramatic touch.

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