Celina, played by Lorenza Izzo, is spellbinding and radiant from her very first moment onscreen. The tenacious lead in this debut feature from Lissette Feliciano, she propels the narrative forward even when the script falters, her character offering a small and deeply personal perspective on abortion and motherhood around the time that the Supreme Court was making its own decisions on abortion rights and female bodily autonomy. Her story might be mundane when held up against feminist history, but it is so incredibly important.
Thus far, Celina has survived Catholic high school and a volatile home life by adhering to rules, but that diligence means nothing when a singular misstep buries her in consequence. The return of her soldier boyfriend Mateo (Bryan Craig) from Vietnam results in a very much unwanted teenage pregnancy. Things spiral out of control from there, with a particularly haunting scene in which her best friend is killed — or murdered, as Celina emphasizes — during an illegal abortion. It is then that she is forced from her youth and into adulthood. Responsibilities and burdens pile up heavily on her shoulders as her family life becomes progressively more precarious and she works herself to the bone. She soon learns that none of her suffering has been accidental: all of it is symptomatic of something systemic.
In spite of how dynamic the film feels, its writing is its weakest point, with parts of the script feeling cliched. This is especially true of the fourth wall breaks, which spell out every theme rather obviously and can come off as preachy, given that the narrative already allows for a clear and direct expression of every socio-political issue that the audience is supposed to think about. Although using those breaks is an unconventional choice, the way they are used here makes the film feel more like a superficial feminist piece than something of nuance and depth.
Women is Losers has a solid grasp of its visual aesthetic, which is elevated by a color palette that is saturated and lively in precisely the way one tends to imagine California throughout this period. Strengthened by admirable costuming (including several enviable pieces worn by Celina) and production design that feels consistently high-value, the film is quite beautifully shot. Its cinematography keeps things engaging in the places where the writing is shaky or the supporting characters are flimsy.
Women is Losers offers an enticing glimpse of what seems like a promising career for Feliciano, whose voice is firm and shines throughout her work. It is, by all accounts, sturdy and sure of itself, even in the ways that it is flawed or somewhat cheesy. Having parenthood thrust upon you is no easy task, especially as the daughter of an immigrant family, but Celina navigates the world with a fierce and uncompromising kind of grace. She is the dazzling center of this film — always captivating as we watch her forge her future with increasingly steady hands.