LINGUA FRANCA – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Let’s salute writer, director and lead actress Isabel Sandoval for Lingua Franca.

Lingua Franca is Sandoval’s somber, sobering and highly personal story infused by her own real life experiences as she plays Olivia, a post-opt Filipino trans woman, an undocumented immigrant living and working in Brooklyn. As a live-in caregiver for Olga, a fuzzy-headed little old Russian lady (Lynn Cohen), her Olivia is desperate to gain a green card in the anti-immigrant Trump era in which ICE agents roam the streets. She had been paying a guy to marry her but he backs out. All the while, her mother back in her homeland is waiting for money to arrive.

Hope kind of arrives in the guise of Olga’s fresh-out-of-rehab grandson Alex (Eamon Farren), who continues his boozy lifestyle while laboring at his uncle’s meatpacking center when he isn’t at the gym working out. There is a sort of Rocky Balboa attitude about him but he lacks the Italian Stallion’s charm and commitment to his goals. Of course, two lost souls like Alex and Olivia are destined to connect. It’s too bad that the pair only earns a C in chemistry.

Rather than tightening her narrative strands as her story wraps up, Sandoval lets matters unravel. While it’s admirable and brave of her to address such hot-button issues as one’s sexual identity and the fears of those whose path to citizenship is needlessly blocked, Lingua Franca could have expressed so much more to allow those who see themselves in Olivia to truly connect with her film.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.