Women is Losers is a coming-of-age narrative that attempts to not only stand on its own as a story about a single mother navigating a sexist world, but also be an educational piece.
The story follows Celina as she becomes a single mother in high school and the few years that follow into her mid-20s. Played by Lorenza Izzo, who is wholly captivating as a leading lady, the story is both a means to highlight the specific struggles of this one Latina/Hispanic woman and the current world she inhabits. The timestamped film takes play during the late 60s and early 70s which sets up the specific struggles of being a woman during this time period.
From the onset, writer-director Lissette Feliciano creates an atmosphere that is knowingly telling you a fictional story but with a framework designed to be a teaching moment. Starting us off with Celina confronting her baby daddy Mateo (Bryan Craig) as he is having an affair, the film then has our characters break the fourth wall and address the audience to explain how they got here, literally and in terms of the grand scheme of their society. The film then takes us back to high school as Celina attends a super religious private Catholic school, then follows her journey from there.
This film in many ways is a breath of fresh air as Feliciano does actively work to express her frustrations with the many complications a woman has to overcome to simply live. From domestic abuse to the inability to access proper health care and education, a patriarchal society that diminishes a woman’s bodily autonomy, sexist work practices, and much more. As nice as it is to have the film break from the narrative to address some of these specific moments in Celina’s life, it does sometimes feel like more of an afterschool special. It will not be for everyone, but it is a creative choice that is admirable. It certainly is a step in the right direction, as so many “feminist” movies can be boiled down to just women suffering and eventually rebelling in a overly dramatic way.
Women Is Losers doesn’t subject our lead to any great indignation for drama, rather the film covers the rather subtle forms of discrimination and the weight of that burden. Women is Losers is carefully constructed to be a showy presentation of key instances that reflected the state of women’s rights back then and drawing parallels to how far (or not) we’ve come today. In addition, Feliciano does throw in various other teaching moments that provide context for what society as a whole was in the 60s/70s and how those varying issues stand today. A segment featuring Simu Liu’s Gilbert is especially poignant considering the current reckoning with violence and racism towards Asians. The timing is oddly poetic.
The heart of this film and a big reason to watch is Lorenza Izzo. An actress who has been slowly building an impressive resume that showcases her range and talent as an actress. In almost every respect, Izzo is tremendously gifted and has an inexplicable beauty that is almost too much to bear. However, the thing that truly attracts your attention is her expressive eyes, which convey so much from, excitement, doubt, happiness, weariness, sympathy, anger, and so much more. There is an empathetic energy she radiates that is too captivating to ignore. Certainly an actress worth watching out for, she is going to have a meteoric rise soon enough. Also, shout out Chrissie Fit who plays Celina’s best friend Marty, who is well-deserving of more leading roles, as her performance here is spectacular and stands out despite her limited screen-time.
Feliciano’s debut feature is ambitious and self-assured, albeit uneven. Her intentions are clear as day, and with the help of a good eye for direction and a solid leading lady, the film finds its footing eventually. As far as first features go, this is a solid debut and what’s most impressive is Feliciano’s sense of empathy and respect for the resilience of women. She so beautifully captures that, despite the difficulties that stand in Celina’s way, she remains determined to succeed.
Women Is Losers screened at the virtual edition of SXSW 2021
by Ferdosa Abdi