Review by Sean Boelman
Based on his own mother’s unpublished memoir, Jorge Xolalpa Jr.’s Your Iron Lady is an undeniably personal film, although it is also extremely self-indulgent. Like an amateurish version of Roma, there are some great moments here, but it too often has the low qualities of a telenovela to be particularly compelling.
The movie tells the story of an immigrant mother who leaves her husband after arriving in America, following her domestic troubles over the course of a year. While what Xolalpa has to say about the immigrant experience is interesting and comes from a place of sincerity, the dialogue is stilted in a way that it loses a much-needed feeling of authenticity.
One of the biggest issues with Xolalpa’s script is that it’s full of gaps. It constantly feels like the film is moving from scene to scene rather than through an interconnected narrative. Although some of these scenes are excellent, they are relatively self-contained and are overshadowed within the greater context of the script.
In trying to represent his (or more accurately, his mother’s) story through a year of her life, Xolalpa wants to say a lot about what he values, but this also results in the movie losing focus. Had Xolalpa emphasized just one of the themes — family, what it means to be an immigrant in America, or the value of hard work — rather than trying to give them all their due, it would have been much more effective.
Xolalpa’s directorial style is even more haphazard than his writing. The opening scene, while interestingly framed, is presented with black subtitles on a dark background, so it’s often difficult to read. And the sound design is frequently awful, particularly in that sequence, so even if one is fluent in Spanish, it’s difficult to follow the film.
The movie does a decent job of developing the lead character, but the rest of her family is very underwritten. Like a telenovela, every element of conflict is heightened and drawn out to the point that the characters become laughable. This is particularly the case with the protagonist’s daughters (inspired by the filmmaker’s sisters) who feel like total cliches.
The only saving grace of this movie is Victoria del Rosal, who is excellent in the lead role. Of anyone in the cast, she’s the only one who delivers the often telegraphed lines with anything resembling subtlety. Child actor Yul Bürkle is also good, although that may be because he doesn’t have any lines.
Your Iron Lady is definitely very rough. With a re-edit and some re-recorded sound, there’s enough interesting things here that Xolalpa may be able to salvage it into something passable, but unfortunately, the script is too lacking for it to make much of a splash.
Your Iron Lady screened as a part of the Florida Film Festival, which runs August 7-21 at the Enzian Theater in Orlando, FL.