NOTHING PERSONAL, written an directed by Urzula Antoniak, has a premise so simple and direct that it seems odd we've haven't seen its like previously. Yet I think we have not. This one's an original -- which may be why it has walked away with so many awards: Best First Feature at the Locarno, 2009; Best Film at the Dutch Film Fest, 2009; Winner of the Silver Giradillo, Sevilla, 20009; even the winner of the FranceAward of the High-School-Jury at the Festival International de Premiere Film d'Annonay. That last one is particularly interesting because Nothing Personal's main character looks (and acts) like she's barely out of high school herself, so I'll bet a lot of those jury kids quite readily identified. As played by Dutch actress Lotte Verbeek, who's approaching 30 but clearly reads much younger, "You," as the character insists on being called by her co-star and practically the only other actor on view (the always fine Stephen Rea), is intent above all else on keeping her anonymity intact.
The Company of Wolves to Guinevere, The Crying Game to Stuck, he's a master of subtlety and the small gesture. Here, he is hang-dog perfection, and he's matched by Ms Verbeek, a cold, flame-haired mystery who slowly begins to warm. The film is divided into sections -- Loneliness, Marriage, The Beginning of a Relationship, Alone -- which I think are not really necessary. At the finale there is a tremendously moving scene, but as "You" handles it with her usual internalizing, I guess we ought to, as well. With this film, Ms Antoniak has given us a wonderful, strange thing.
Cinema Village. And elsewhere, too, soon, I hope.
Giovanni Ribisi and Juliette Lewis, very good actors, play these people in The Other Sister (or the gorgous blond young man who plays the mentally impaired boy who falls in love with an equally beautiful "normal" girl in We Can Do That), it's so easy to enjoy and identify with this kind of thing.
Lola Dueñas (above, right, and below, left). Pineda is very, very good, mind you. He is utterly believable, moment to moment, in everything he does. The difficulty comes from seeing someone so "other" trying to fit into the "normal" world. It's so there, right in front of us (as it is in front of Dueñas), and there is no escaping the visual differences, for her or for us. That she -- and, I think, we -- can finally see beyond the mere visual is the great strength of this movie -- which never shies away from the physical side of Down syndrome.
Cinema Village. I hope this film, too, makes it into other theaters across our country, and onto DVD.