“Ludi,” the debut film from actor/director Edson Jean, is a realist drama based loosely on his mother’s experience as a first-generation Haitian immigrant in Miami.
It follows the titular character Ludi, played by Shein Mompremier, a nurse struggling to secure funds to send back to her family in Haiti. In a desperate attempt to pick up more hours, Ludi agrees to take a shift in private care, a type of work she isn’t used to, which proves to be more difficult than she anticipated. The elderly man refuses her assistance, creating a night shift that only grows more stressful for the already overworked Ludi.
The film stylistically flourishes in vibrant Floridian hues that evoke a certain summertime nostalgia and highlight Ludi’s homesickness. These narrated sequences, along with the intimate cinematography, give the audience full access to Ludi’s emotional state. It is her determination that carries the plot and ultimately allows for an empathetic bond to form between the characters.
Everyone Ludi encounters, from her bus driver to her coworkers, add pressure to her situation through small, natural conflicts that refreshingly avoid contrivance and melodrama. Mompremier’s performance shines as she subtly masks Ludi’s pain behind a cheerful smile until her facade breaks away powerfully in the climax.
Ludi finds her own stubbornness reflected back at her through her patient when she asks him, “Do you always have to do everything the hard way?” The universal theme of “Ludi” is that we all may need to ask this question of ourselves from time to time.