• Loren King

Powerful Mother/Daughter Story at Heart of 'Gabriela'

The performances by writer/director/star Evelyn Lorena and Maria Telon in Lorena’s delicately powerful short film “Gabriela” transcend its coming of age story about an undocumented Guatemalan young woman who’s ready to burst out of her limiting circumstances in North Carolina where she feels devalued.

Gabriela longs to swim competitively at an exclusive country club that offers a $5000 prize that she wants to use to fund college tuition. But she’s prohibited from using the club and tries to make do at the local community pool. With her father recently dead and her mother a hard working cleaner who implores her daughter to settle for good enough, Gabriela is conflicted about where she belongs and how hard she should push. Meanwhile, she can’t ignore the boy next door: a sweet Ukrainian (Viktor White) who seems to like her just as she is. The film is at its strongest when focusing on the mother/daughter dynamic, aided especially by Telon’s naturalistic performance. Most filmmakers would opt for a cliched triumphant climax but Lorena instead gives “Gabriela”

a welcome realism and poignancy that fits its characters.

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