¡Viva! 27 #2: Nora (Spain-France 2020)

This second ¡Viva! film at HOME in Manchester turned out to be not quite the film I expected, though I still enjoyed it. It is promoted as a ‘road movie’ and though that description is certainly applicable, in part because it includes some familiar genre elements, the film doesn’t fully commit to the road movie narrative and the actual distance travelled is not very far. But in terms of ‘changing’ the central character Nora, the film does deliver.

Nora (Ane Pikaza) is a woman in her early thirties who is experiencing a form of midlife crisis. She has had a relationship that hasn’t worked out and she still hasn’t found a job that gives her real satisfaction. She has tried looking for new openings that might make use of her talents (which include drawing skills), but so far no luck. She is looking after her grandfather who is in serious decline and has a close friend who is perhaps using her as a bastion against her own marriage difficulties. And, finally she doesn’t really get on with her parents. Dad is supportive but Mum is critical. When her Argentinian grandfather is finally at peace, Nora sets off in his old Citroën Dyane van (an ‘Acadiane‘?) in the classic attempt to ‘find herself’ and to put his ashes where he wanted them to go. Her family’s Argentinian roots will show through with grandfather’s music on the old cassette player and Nora’s occasional tango moves as she enjoys her freedom.

Enjoying her freedom in the van . . .

The central part of the narrative is very enjoyable partly because we get to see the stunning countryside of the Biscay and Gipuzkoa regions of the Basque country. Nora is not a good driver but she survives and meets strangers who each help her and possibly teach her something. The actual journey itinerary is not clear but she appears to be travelling East along the coast and eventually crosses the border into France. Her grandmother is buried in Ciboure, a small town just over the border. The film is a Spanish-French co-production so this may simply be a requirement of the deal. This is a multilingual film and Nora turns out to speak Spanish, Basque, French and English to the different people she meets and when she finds a bookshop just over the border she finds herself using all four languages in the space of a few hours.

having a good time in a seaside bar with the guy who hires out paddle boards . . .

The road movie usually ends with the protagonist in a new place having changed as the result of their adventures. In this case, Nora will first return home and then sally forth again, knowing what she wants. That seems a satisfying resolution to me. The film is the second feature by writer-director Lara Izagirre, a Basque native who trained in New York and Barcelona before returning home. The film is presented in Academy ratio for no particular reason that I can discern, but the presentation works well. Nora is an interesting character and Ane Pikaza gives a strong performance. One of the things about Nora that I like is that she is prepared to say no and sometimes to behave ‘badly’ when she, not unreasonably, refuses to go along with someone else. She is not a naïve young traveller. She has something to offer and she will find a way to use it.

On set in the hospital.

Nora seems to have been well received in Spain and I don’t see why it shouldn’t travel successfully to other territories. I’ve always wanted to travel to Northern Spain. The film helped to convince me and once the pandemic is under control, perhaps I’ll go. In the meantime, Nora is a good advertisement. I can recommend the film and future screenings at ¡Viva! are on Sunday 15th August at 18.00 and Wednesday 18th August at 16.00.

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