In what is likely her final film, long-time Canadian-Chilean filmmaker Maria Teresa Larraín has made a first-person documentary chronicling her experience with progressive blindness. Larrain’s condition is hereditary and comes as no surprise, but the progressive transition to living without sight sends her on an unexpected journey. Her claim to receive benefits from the Canadian government is denied so after her brother offers up a job, Larrain returns home to Chile after many years in Canada.
In the film, Larrain explains that film is the only way she can express her experience and her pain; if she were a painter she would paint or a writer she would write. In turn, the film is a story and expression of pain, and through the use of clever style techniques, Larrain is able to convey how she sees the world at various points along her journey.
Upon returning to Chile, she reconnects with her family and her roots and soon builds rapport with the blind street vendors of Santiago. The vendors form a community of their own and seeing how they have coped with varying degrees of blindness helps Larraine cope with her own struggles to accept and adapt to her new reality. The relationship between Lorraine and the vendors and the examination of the vendor community provide some of the most compelling parts of the film.
Larrain succeeds at providing an honest, first-hand account of her journey which serves simultaneously as cathartic release and forthright look at the issue of blindness. Shadow Girl can be dreary at times but the honesty of the story and the film’s artistic merit make this a worthwhile watch.