The colourful opening of Uga Carlini’s Angeliena suggests a giddy ride awaits: the camera follows a suitcase plastered with travel stickers moving along a conveyor belt at an airport. But such vibrant detail only points up the film’s lack of emotional substance. A parking attendant for a posh hospital in South Africa, Angeliena (Euodia Samson) dreams of travelling the world, she adorns her little shack with tourist posters from faraway lands. At work, Angeliena brings a glow to the austere parking lot, pinning red roses that she grows herself to the windscreen wipers of fancy SUVs.
Such sweet-natured actions are presumably intended to endear Angeliena to us, yet reduce her to a unidimensional worker with a heart of gold. The thinness of the characterisation is made more pronounced by the cartoonishly evil Dr Mitchell (Colin Moss), the hospital owner and Angeliena’s antagonist, a spewer of Trumpian one-liners. Ludicrously, the film takes a tone-deaf turn when Angeliena is revealed to be suffering from an unnamed muscular atrophy that motivates her to finally embark on her world trip. Out of the blue, she develops facial tics. The only affecting sequences are the few-and-far-between gatherings between Angeliena and her eccentric female friends.
This is a film whose shallow critique of wealth inequality in a post-apartheid South Africa falls flat, with its attempt to add nuance to humble lives doing little service to the hard-pressed community it tries to honour.
Angeliena is on Netflix from 8 October.