Title: Nora’s Will
Directed: Mariana Chenillo
Starring: Fernando Luján, Enrique Arreola, Ari Brickman and Juan Carlos Colombo.
Movies that aim to take a different outlook on serious subjects and succeed in achieving their intended unique perspective are often rewarded with praise and awards. The Mexican film ‘Nora’s Will’ is one such movie that aimed to take a humorous tone towards families who struggle to cope with the death of a loved one. While winning numerous honors at several festivals, including best first feature at the Havana Film Festival, the movie won’t likely strike a cord with American audiences.
‘Nora’s Will’ tries to take a comedic stand on death and the bonding and mourning of the immediate family, but it fails to live up to its intentions. The film follows Jose Kurtz (played by Fernando Lujan), who finds his ex-wife Nora (portrayed by Silvia Mariscal) dead in her apartment on the first day of Passover, a Thursday. Nora purposely committed suicide on that day so that Jose will have to take care of her burial.
Since their son Rueben (played by Ari Brickman) is on vacation with his wife and their two daughters, Nora knows that he will make Jose wait to bury her until he arrives home. According to Jewish laws, burials cannot take place during the first two days of Passover or on the Sabbath, so Jose is forced to wait until Sunday to hold the funeral. That way he is forced to bond with Rueben and the rest of the family, and accept her Jewish faith.
While Mariana Chenillo, who served as both the director and screenwriter for ‘Nora’s Will,’ included several comical lines in the script to relieve the tension between Jose and his family, those few jokes hardly make up for the film’s lack of character development. Since a majority of the movie takes place in Nora’s apartment, as Jewish law requires that someone continuously stays with the body to pray until the burial, Chenillo needed to keep her characters interesting and fresh to hold her viewers’ attention. But she failed to include any appealing attributes to any of the characters, and therefore many audience members won’t create any type of bond with any of the characters.
For example, Jose isn’t a religious man, and in the beginning of the film, understandably doesn’t want to concede to following any of Nora’s religious beliefs. But as time goes on, and he spends more time with Rueben, his family and Rabbi Jacowitz (portrayed by Max Kerlow), who looks over Nora’s burial service, Jose still doesn’t want to accommodate her wishes. It’s hard to feel sympathetic to Jose, as he’s so stubborn he doesn’t consider anyone else’s needs or wants.
The lack of character development also made it hard for the actors to fully relate to their roles. Out of all the actors, Lujan should have had the easiest time bonding to his character, as much of the focus of the film is on Jose. But even Lujan had trouble connecting with his role. While Chenillo deserves credit for wanting to approach such a serious subject with a light-hearted tone to make her movie stand out, all the audience will be thinking about is how unrelatable her characters are.
Even though Mexico neighbors the U.S., many Americans won’t be able to relate to the characters or their circumstances in ‘Nora’s Will.’ Chenillo tried to take a different look on the seriousness of death, but her efforts unfortunately didn’t pay off.
Written by: Karen Benardello