Habana Eva -- Film Review



An agreeably indulgent slice of escapist wish fulfillment, the romantic comedy "Habana Eva" charms with its breezy style and appealing performances. Winner of the best feature film prize at the recent Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, "Eva" will continue playing strongly at fests worldwide and radiates more than adequate allure to secure broadcast dates and potentially art-house bookings as well.

Twenty-something Eva (Prakriti Maduro) toils in a Havana garment factory turning out cookie-cutter wedding dresses for the masses, but yearns to design her own clothing line. Career options are limited in Cuba's planned economy however, and besides, her almost-fiance Angel (Carlos Enrique Almirante), an underemployed architect, can't quite manage to commit, although he's always ready for a quickie on the rooftop of their shared apartment building.

So after she meets hunky vacationing expat Jorge (Juan Carlos Garcia) as he's photographing Havana landmarks, she senses an opportunity to break out of her boring routine and quickly agrees to act as his guide touring the city's sites. It's not long before their torrid love affair incites Angel's suspicions. By then, Jorge has disappeared back to Venezuela without a word of farewell, leaving Eva confused and maybe heartbroken.

But a chance encounter with Jorge's elderly aunts, who recognize Eva's design talent, quickly sweeps her up in a madcap plan to convert the women's magnificent, dilapidated Havana mansion into a tea house and fashion museum. With Angel's help restoring the decrepit edifice, the women are on the verge of their grand opening when a heartsick Jorge reappears to admit duping Eva, yet determined to win back her affection despite Angel's hot-blooded rivalry.

Venezuelan co-writer/director Fina Torres ("Woman on Top") keeps events moving at such a breakneck clip that the implausibility of the many plot twists seems inconsequential as Eva pursues her dream, and her men. A shift toward lighthearted magical realism in the latter half is less convincing than the early farcical interplay of characters and events, but manages to suitably support the film's fantasy arc.

Torres' accessible directing and fine comic timing are central to the film's amusements, as is Maduro's winning performance, as she channels screwball antics and no-compromise brassiness to skillfully overturn the restrictive relationship dynamics her lovers would prefer to foist on her. Supporting cast members buoy the clearly formulaic plot, while the evocative Havana locations confer an authentic aura of romance.

Venue: Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
Production: Villa del Cine
Cast: Prakriti Maduro, Carlos Enrique Almirante, Juan Carlos Garcia, Yuliet Cruz
Director: Fina Torres
Screenwriters: Jorge Camacho, Fina Torres, Julio Carrillo
Producers: Delfina Catala, Lorena Almarza, Fina Torres, Camilo Vives
Director of photography: Hector Ortega
Production designer: Sandi Jelambi
Music: Barbara Cohen
Editor: Robin Katz
No rating, 106 minutes