Writer-director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s feature film debut is a total delight. A homage to the pulpy Filipino action films shot on video from the 1970s and 80s, this extremely meta, self-referential comedy-drama-thriller mash-up stars the magnificent Sheila Francisco as not especially well-off housewife Leonor Reyes. Leonor is living with her son Rudy (Bong Cabrera), a middle manager planning to emigrate – but she was once a successful screenwriter, a force to be reckoned with in Manila’s local film industry until a tragic on-set accident took the life of Rudy’s brother Ronwaldo (Anthony Falcon), who as a ghost still haunts his mother’s house, sometimes visibly and sometimes not. When Leonor notices there’s a screenwriting competition with a large prize available (the household needs the money given their electricity almost gets cut off), she decides to dust off an old script and revise it with a view to submission. But a bonk on the head from a falling TV set sends her into both a coma and the script itself, which we see acted out like a vintage action movie. In this film within the film, a character named Ronwaldo is trying to rescue a pretty damsel in distress from an assortment of villains. Leonor becomes a version of herself in the story, an all-knowing matriarchal seer. Meanwhile, Rudy is advised, like the menfolk in Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her (clearly an influence here), to keep talking to his mother in the hope that this will bring her back round to consciousness. There’s an array of twists and turns as the film toggles back and forth between levels of reality, playing with film-making conventions with insouciant glee. And somehow it works on every level: as a moving melodrama about maternal sacrifice and grief, as a domestic comedy, and even as a glorious musical – just wait for the fantastic scene where a hardman suddenly breaks into a joyful boogie. Francisco’s performance adapts effortlessly to each register, but really the whole cast is great, while Manila itself plays a key supporting role. Leonor Will Never Die is released on 7 April in UK and Irish cinemas.