Tell No One, from 2006, was such a film (though it had some major critical approval and a very smart distributor behind it). Even more so was Gloomy Sunday, the German/Hungarian co-production from 2001 that made huge art-house waves via a much smaller (but also smart) distributor and with much less critical backing. Now comes a film that I predict will be one of those word-of-mouth sensations that audiences take to heart and recommend to all their friends: NORA'S WILL by writer/director Mariana Chenillo (shown below). This dramedy about a funeral, a family and a marriage is the movie that walked away with seven of Mexico's "Oscar" equivalent -- the Ariel awards -- including Best Picture of the Year.
My Mexican Shiva, a film that was somewhat crass (but still awfully good fun). Very soon Chenillo's movie takes on its own specific and sweet character. You'll have a smile on your face for much of its length -- until it takes you into unexpectedly moving territory without ever becoming maudlin. At the point toward the finale in which the film suddenly deepens and broadens enormously, I don't know whether you will smile, cry or hold your breath in disbelief that a mere movie can accomplish what has just happened -- and so quietly, unas-sumingly that you may not, for some moments, know what hit you. (The way that Chenillo negotiates the final moments results in an ending that, from a visual standpoint, is as wonderful as that of Once -- which, to my mind, has one of the most perfect endings in the history of cinema.) This is a comedy as Shakespeare understood the word: Problems, and their attending pathos, are waiting just around the corner.
Rodrigo Garcia). It is too alert, observant and humane. There are no villains (unless you ascribe that role to one very angry, or maybe hurt, rabbi). This is as full-bodied a group of people as I have seen in a modern comedy/drama, and the film's cast enlivens each rich character with life and depth.
Fernando Luján (above), who brings a wonderful sense of had-it-up-to-here anger, spiced with humor and affection, for (the anger, especially) religion, society, and his late wife. The rest of the well-chosen cast makes each character specific and often very funny, though no one ventures beyond the bounds of reality. Chenillo appears to have a sixth sense regarding how much to show and tell -- and exactly when to do it. Hers is one of the most accomplished full-length film debuts in a long while.
FSLC's LatinBeat festival (that's when I first saw it). Now distributed by Menemsha Films, after its recording-breaking Florida run, it will open at New York City's longest continuously-running art house, the Paris Theater, on October 15. Already playing in Washington DC (at the Avalon Theater), the film will soon be seen in both L.A. and Boston on October 29) and in Portland (though whether it's Maine or Oregon, I'm not certain) on November 17. Menemsha's Neil Friedman promises us many more cities to come.