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Movie Review: Nora's Will

NORA'S WILL (Cinco dias sin Nora) is a wonderful Spanish drama with just a touch of farce that keeps it from being maudlin. This film held my attention from the opening scene where a delicate bit of lace is revealed to be a tablecloth to the very last scene where things come to their natural conclusion. NORA'S WILL is a fine balance of the bitter with the sweet thanks to the economical script and direction of Maria Chenillo and the emotional nuances that actor Fernando Lujàn brings to the role of José.

To everyone in the film, Nora is José’s wife; to José she is his ex-wife, she is dead so let’s bury her already. Under normal circumstances a quick burial would not be a problem, but the timing of Nora’s death (Passover) is complicated by Jewish laws and the fact that after 14 attempts, Nora has succeeded in committing suicide. This is all too much for José: he is in conflict with his son, he offends a very powerful Rabbi, he doesn’t want to eat any of the food Nora stocked in the fridge before her death, and he wants the young man sitting Shiva to leave so he can dig around in Nora’s things and find answers to her secret. Meanwhile, the maid is trying to Catholiize Nora’s dead body, the grandkids are scared of the body but not of the coffin in the living room, and the family has to wear winter coats because the apartment has to be kept cool.

Including elements of farce in the story of a marriage marred by mental illness and separation could not have been easy for this director, even though she wrote the script. So much is still dependent on timing, tone, and performance. Chenillo manages to pull this off exceedingly well because of her experience as an editor. There are no wasted scenes in NORA'S WILL, just a well-told story that satisfies.

NORA'S WILL
NOW PLAYING at the Carlton Cinemas, Sheppard Grand in Toronto and the Rainbow Cinemas Promenade Mall in Thornhill. Check theatre listings for show times.In Spanish with English subtitles.

This review was originally written as part of my coverage of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2010.

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