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"Gabriela" (2022): Movie Review

I Write These Movie Reviews Locked in the Trunk of Your Car. Thanks for the Snacks!!

We hope there's no deadly shark below her.

We hope there's no deadly shark below her.

Running Time

25 Minutes


Evelyn Lorena


Evelyn Lorena

Be warned, the new short film Gabriela is barely longer than something you’d binge watch (about 25 minutes), but it packs a solid punch. There isn’t an ounce of screen time wasted, yet you'll spend a lot of time thinking about it afterward.

She practices swimming on the ground


Gabriela (writer/director and star Evelyn Lorena) is your standard girl facing the typical challenge of someone who just graduated from high school. Like most of us, she doesn’t quite know what she wants to do with her life, but she knows she loves to swim. Gabriela is smart enough to get to college and she seems smart enough to keep her head above water, metaphorically speaking.

The only problem is she’s undocumented and Guatemalan. She’s been living under the radar trying not to get noticed too much. She’s even met a boy Stefan (Viktor White). And while he’s not necessarily from the wrong side of the tracks Gabi knows that culturally her mother Alma (Maria Telon) might not approve.

She has a fear of pool noodles despite being an excellent swimmer.

She has a fear of pool noodles despite being an excellent swimmer.

Gabriela is good enough to get a scholarship, but she can’t really accept it because it would raise too many red flags about her citizenship. Her mother wants her to stay and work with her.

Gabi’s shown she can swim with the best of them, but she’s not a member of the country club she works at and she stands out because she’s you know, not white.

What’s a young girl to do with her life?

What Works With Gabriela

  • A deeply felt performance by Evelyn Lorena as the titular Gabriela. In such a short movie, there isn’t a moment that feels false or a scene that feels “acted.” You only spend 25 minutes with Gabriela. You wish you could spend more.
  • Again, the film is only 25 minutes and it just breezes by because there are no unnecessary scenes and none of them drag.
  • There’s nothing particularly revelatory or game changing about this short, as it’s a simple story, wonderfully told. You’ve seen (much longer) movies like this before, but Gabriela is such a sharply written character you never feel like your watching a character sketch in broad strokes. For that 25 minutes, Gabriela feels real.
Those pool noodles are inching towards her.

Those pool noodles are inching towards her.

What Doesn’t Work With Gabriela

  • One-dimensional, racist white people that reek of an after school special. It’s a minor, but noticeable quibble in an otherwise very poignant short. But, Gabriela is the best written character in the movie and everyone else is just in her shadow.


A movie with a minimal runtime, but a powerful impact. You’ve seen Gabrielas in your life and probably ignored people like her because they look different. Gabriela (the movie and the character) shows that we’re more alike than we sometimes allow.

Really 3.5


© 2022 Noel Penaflor