This is the story of Isabel (a sublime performance by veteran actress Luz María Rondón ) who has just been widowed. Rather than call in the usual Funeral Services that the whole neighborhood uses, Isabel with a very natural flair for decoration creates her own. The result is stunning and admired by all the mourners except for Toña (Sharon Riley) from the local church who, with her two gossipy acolytes, has had the monopoly on arranging funerals for years,
Seeing the success of Isabel’s work that makes her old traditional style looks so tired, she invites Isabel to join forces with her as a decorator of caskets and funerals. It gives the grieving widow a new purpose in life.
Given free rein like this Isabel’s imagination runs riot and although some of her ‘custom’ funerals like the one for the local carpenter that is decorated with his tools and hardware, may not sit well with his widow, we love it. Isabel is on a run anyway . the fisherman gets a giant net and a boat in his casket and a cook’s funerals decorated with elegant silverware.
Whilst Isabel is loving this next phase in her life, her adult children think she should sell up the family home and quietly retire like other women of her age. She is having none of it and life couldn’t seem more perfect to her until she discovers that Toña and her coterie often cannot wait for people who are sick to die, so they have a scheme to help them on their way. All in God’s name naturally.
Somehow Colon has made us laugh at a traditionally morbid subject that many of us refuse to even think about, let alone question. It also inspires Isabel to question her own values and her place in society, and she surprises herself (and us) on where that leads.
It’s a wonderful observational comedy that Colon enriches with the most minute detail that gives such a complete look at a culture that may be alien to many of us. Who knew death could be so enjoyable, well at least for us who are left behind
Perfume de Gardenias premiered at Tribeca Film Festival