So Much Tenderness: New Home, New Fears

After the traumatic death of her husband, Aurora (Noelle Schonwald) decides to flee Colombia in search of a new life. Hiding in the trunk of a couple’s car, she decides to leave her daughter behind and make her way to Canada. Although she is unable to speak the language and struggles to get settled, Aurora knows that she’s done the right thing. Years later, after she’s been reunited with her daughter, Lucia (Natalia Aranguren), mother and daughter finally feel as though they have found a new home. However, when Aurora encounters an unexpected person from her past, she must attempt to reconcile her previous life without destroying her new one.

Written and directed by Lina Rodriguez, So Much Tenderness is a powerful and haunting film that highlights the challenges of immigrating and starting a new life. With its contemplative style, what’s most noteworthy about the film is its narrative structure. With long takes and scenes fueled by dialogue, Tenderness is a film that wants us to sit and see life unfold before us. In this way, Rodriguez makes the embeds her film with a deeper sense of reality. Scenes with immigration counselors, potential employers, or simply spending time with friends discussing matters of life all feel authentic. Backed by solid performances from Schonwald and Aranguren, these discussions feel unforced and genuine as they focus on everyday issues such as beginning one’s new life or simply trying to make sense of sexuality and relationships.

In doing so, Rodriguez shows what it means to live with the challenges of immigration by helping us to witness the quiet moments of life that define us. Whether its Aurora processing her trauma or Lucia beginning to heal with her friend, Rodriguez allows the viewer to watch her characters process their feelings without padding scenes with excessive drama or spectacle. In other words, Tenderness presents this experience with normalcy and honesty, rather than sensationalizing the journey for dramatic effect. As a result, there is beauty about the film that sets it apart from other tales of this nature. 

At the same time though, Tenderness also takes a surprising turn as it flirts with becoming a gripping thriller. Left to deal with the scars from her past experiences, Aurora attempts to move forward. However, as she begins to take the steps necessary to heal in her new home, she soon encounters a ghost from her past that threatens to unravel everything that she’s built. Although the film’s pacing remains relatively slow, Tenderness uses the time to fill these moments with a sense of impending dread. Could this potential visitor be more than just a haunting vision? If so, why are they here? In these moments, Rodriguez does an excellent job of drawing the viewer in as while Aurora attempts to put the pieces of the mystery together.

With heart and humility, So Much Tenderness is a fascinating experience. By allowing her camera to capture life as it unfolds, Rodriguez keeps the viewer in the moment. There is a beauty and rhythm to the storytelling that keeps Tenderness grounded, even in the midst of its mystery and madness.

So Much Tenderness is available in theatres on Friday, June 30th, 2023.

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