Nina Forever: Relationships are complicated, and even when you think you’ve moved on past a former lover, you still carry traces of that person’s influence with you for a while. That’s the theme at the heart of Nina Forever, the darkly comedic feature film debut from Ben and Chris Blaine that follows new couple Holly (Abigail Hardingham) and Rob (Cian Barry) as they contend with the return of Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), Rob’s former girlfriend who was killed during a car accident and decides to pop up during their first time having sex. And that’s only the beginning of the awkwardness that continues to build between the trio throughout Nina Forever.
What I really enjoyed about Nina Forever was the approach that the Blaine Brothers take in tackling their complicated ideas; there are no easy answers here and the way the filmmakers handle topics like obsession, the overwhelming feeling many of us have in needing to please others—even to our own detriment at times—and how we can sometimes get caught up in idealizing the past demonstrates a real confidence on their part.
Barry gives a strong performance as someone conflicted with the idea of moving forward, especially after losing someone so horrifically, but he gets outshined by both Hardingham and O’Shaughnessy, who deliver two radically different but equally stunning portrayals of women trying to figure out their place in Rob’s complicated world. I love how pieces of Holly’s fractured psyche are heartbreakingly revealed throughout Nina Forever and O’Shaughnessy’s blunt and blisteringly hilarious depiction of a shunned significant other is absolute gold.
For anyone who has ever struggled to move on past a former relationship or had to deal with the complications that come with being in love, Nina Forever should be right up your alley.
Movie Score: 4/5
Camino: Camino takes viewers on a dangerous journey into the depths of a South American jungle with Avery Taggert (Zoë Bell), an award-winning photojournalist who has been tasked with following a group of radicals on their way to bring medication—and hope—to a remote village that has been struggling under the oppressive nature of their government at large. During their visit, Avery witnesses the group’s enigmatic leader, Guillermo (Nacho Vigalondo) commit a heinous act of murder in the middle of the night, but before she can get away to warn the others, Guillermo spots her and the proverbial chase is on.
While it definitely could have benefitted by being about 15 minutes shorter, Camino is an admirable effort from director and co-writer Josh C. Waller, who effectively ratchets up the tension throughout his savage thriller to an almost frenetic pace, with the badass Bell left to her own devices in order to survive against those trying to kill her. The action choreography is certainly one of the reasons to watch Camino, as those sequences play with a realistic grittiness; viewers know that Bell, a professional stuntwoman, could easily take on any of her attackers nimbly, but instead, her character fights them off in various ways that feel wholly authentic to who Avery Taggart is, not who Zoë Bell is in real life.
Vigalondo’s performance in Camino is almost next-level with his charismatic portrayal of the so-called “Man of the People”, often teetering on the edge of madness, and yet, most of what he says throughout the film makes perfect sense (or at least sense in the world established here). Guillermo feels like if Joaquim de Almeida’s character Bucho from Desperado (a criminally overlooked performance, too) had decided to become a Baptist preacher, where every word uttered feels like poetic scripture. Vigalondo steals almost every scene he’s featured in during Camino.
Overall, Camino is a really strong thriller despite its longer-than-needed runtime and a subplot about Avery’s husband that often weighs down the character. That being said, the film is still a great showcase for Bell’s talents as both a physical performer and an actress and delivers a truly transcendent performance from Vigalondo as well, whose character is as menacing as he is charming.
Movie Score: 3.5/5
The Corpse of Anna Fritz: Writer/director Hèctor Hernández Vicens takes on our obsession with celebrity culture and gives it a decidedly dark twist with his feature film debut, The Corpse of Anna Fritz. The story follows Pau (Albert Carbó), a hospital orderly working in a morgue who realizes that the newest addition to his department is the body of Spain’s most famous actress, Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas). After bragging to his friends Iván (Cristian Valencia) and Javi (Bernat Saumell) about Fritz’s appearance at his work, they visit Pau at the hospital with hopes to sneak a peek at the distinguished corpse, and what starts off as just a peek evolves into a horrific act of necrophilia on the parts of Iván and Pau.
And that’s when things get interesting—Anna mysteriously wakes up while Pau is in “the act” and from there, The Corpse of Anna Fritz becomes something more than just an exploration of how we fetishize celebrities. Vicens also delves into the importance of consent in sexual encounters as well as the violence we’ll do to others in the name of self-preservation.
When you’re dealing with subject matter like necrophilia, some filmmakers may go the exploitative route, but I must commend Vicens with his approach in The Corpse of Anna Fritz, for although the acts themselves are truly disturbing, what follows ends up being almost way worse as the trio of friends tussle with their morality over whether or not they need to re-dispose of Anna Fritz after she realizes what has happened to her and the people behind the heinous acts. As Anna struggles to get her bearings after her “resurrection”, it’s clear that Vicens is paying homage in some ways to Kill Bill, but I also felt like a few touches were inspired by the original Halloween II. That could be me reading too much into some of the shots, but in either case, I was a big fan of those moments, and everything else in-between.
Certainly not a movie for those who aren’t comfortable with boundary-pushing material, The Corpse of Anna Fritz is something more than just another salacious genre effort that shocks only to get a rise out of viewers. At its core, Vicens and Isaac Creus’ script says some very intelligent things about how the population feels entitled to have access to celebrities (especially in the wake of social media over the last five or so years) and how those interactions can escalate inappropriately, leaving stars terrified and often violated at times. It was an uncomfortably tense viewing experience for me, and I also give major props to Ribas for delivering a beautiful performance in the film as an actress who isn’t willing to go down without a fight.
Movie Score: 4/5