An award-winning Mexican film about a Jewish family? Yeah, I was intrigued too. Which is why I’m willing to go so far as to proclaim Nora’s Will a should see film (I’m reserving “must see” for no more than about 5 films that I’ve seen in the course of my lifetime). And since the movie is opening in Minneapolis this weekend, you too will have the chance to check it out.
The movie, a directorial debut from writer/director Mariana Chenillo, opens with a woman preparing for her suicide. Like any good Jewish mother (or, at least, any good Jewish mother who is going to commit suicide – which is, of course, a conversation in itself), Nora’s plan will culminate when the whole family gathers for a Passover meal (maybe it’s a seder? I couldn’t tell…).
Despite the fact that Nora is dead 10 minutes into the story, her presence permeates it. She’s clearly behind the chain of events which starts with a frozen meat delivery scheduled for after her passing. She has instructed the doorman to send the package to her ex-husband José’s apartment across the street if it arrives in her absence. From there, it doesn’t take long for José to figure out that the long-troubled Nora has committed suicide and has left him to deal with her body.
Would you believe me if I told you the film is actually pretty funny? Not overtly, but in a subtle, smart manner reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. The St. Petersburg times called it “gently tragic” and “irreverently comical.” I was definitely laughing as José, militantly un-observant, was told by the orthodox rabbi (brought in by José’s son’s father-in-law) that if Nora’s body wasn’t buried the same day by 3 pm the burial would have to be postponed for 5 days due to the first two days of Passover and then shabbat and other calendar difficulties. Who couldn’t relate to looking at the calendar and realizing that an important event has to wait until after a yom tov or shabbat?
I actually think the film should have kept its Spanish title “Cinco días sin Nora” (5 Days Without Nora). It ends up taking 5 days for the burial to happen and José and Nora’s story unfolds in that time (5 days, 92 minutes – it’s the same, right?). It’s a story of love, hate, and love again in the face of depression. Their story, the wry comedic events surrounding the funeral preparations and a talented cast make the film worth the watch. Check out the trailer and you’ll see what I mean:
Nora’s Will opens today at The Parkway Theater in Minneapolis.
*The FTC made me do it: Disclosure of Material Connection: I got to view the film ahead of time, complements of Menemsha Films, in the hope that I would mention it on TC Jewfolk. But that doesn’t mean that I was obligated to give a glowing review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Blah, blah, blah…