Sirena’s Gallery is the brainchild of filmmaker Christine Stoddard. Set during the COVID-19 pandemic, the plot follows Sirena, a Salvadoran-American woman. Recently widowed, she struggles to keep her art gallery up and running while also processing her recent personal tragedy.
Presented with the healing stages of grief in mind, the film is leisurely with its pacing. Disquieting moments of loneliness and sorrow wash over Sirena every so often as she struggles to heal from her husband’s passing. With the funeral bill looming over her head, Sirena resorts to creating an online marketplace for her watercolor pieces, while the ever-pressing issue of her gallery’s livelihood remains in limbo. It’s despite these external factors that this journey feels surprisingly uneventful. It meanders in place as we are left staring aimlessly into the middle distance.
Dialogue is limited throughout the film, and fittingly so. Communication is limited to phone calls, texts, and FaceTime, in keeping with the restrictions brought forth by the pandemic. This storytelling choice also aids in making Sirena’s Gallery a more grounded, personal experience. Stoddard does her absolute best on both sides of the camera and prefers to keep her shots simple. Locked-off wide shots and close-ups are constantly present, but noise and strange color grading choices frequently obstruct them. The editing in particular is a mixed bag, sometimes effective with its disjointed style, other times stagnant beyond belief.
Sirena’s conversations with distant friends and potential buyers are where things start to truly fall apart. Annoyingly timed voiceovers and poor audio quality dull the impact of the more sensitive segments, while aimless ramblings tarnish the rest. Less can sometimes be more, and that is not what these scenes accomplish.
If not for Stoddard’s magnetic charm and empathetic approach to the personal side of the story, Sirena’s Gallery would be a near-total misfire. There’s enough emotional material for her character to unravel, artfully presented with an affecting lens. Definitely on the experimental side of filmmaking, watch with an open mind!