High Museum of Art: Films

Review: Nora’s Will (Atlanta Jewish Film Festival) by hmablogmaster
Nora's Will

Nora's Will

If you missed Nora’s Will at the High’s 2009 Latin American Film Festival, here’s your chance to catch it. It screens at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on Sunday, January 17 at 1 p.m. (introduced by Linda Dubler) and Friday, January 22 at 3:40 p.m. (introduced by Eleanor Ringel Cater).

Visit www.ajff.org for more information, and read on for Eleanor’s review of the film.

We barely meet the Nora of Nora’s Will, but her presence permeates this bittersweet yet unexpectedly amusing Mexican movie.

As the title suggests, Nora spends most of the picture as a corpse. However, the “will” referred to isn’t a legal document; it’s the force of Nora’s posthumous inner control freak. This, after all, is a woman who plans ahead: she even leaves a pot of hot coffee for whoever discovers her.

Her suicide isn’t exactly unexpected. According to her longtime ex-husband, Jose (Fernando Lujan), who still lives across the street from her though they divorced 20 years ago, she’s tried to off herself 14 times before. So, losing Nora, though sad, isn’t really the point.

What to do with her body is.

You see, her timing is really bad. Passover is about to begin and due to various rites and rituals of Orthodox Jewish law, she can’t be buried for several days. In the meantime, there’s ice for her corpse and an irascible older rabbi who insists everything be done by the book.  As in, THE BOOK.

Further, Nora has determined her Passover Seder will go on exactly as she planned. The table is set and the refrigerator is packed with food, each item accompanied by a post-it instructing what is to be done and how.

Much of the film’s considerable humor comes from self-proclaimed atheist and all-around curmudgeon Jose’s determination not to follow orders, be they from Nora, their adult son, the finger-waving rabbi, or even Nora’s devoted housekeeper.  At one point, Jose brings in a pizza slathered in bacon as an adamantly non-Kosher snack.

As more people arrive and differing agendas collide, the film takes on an increasingly farcical tone. Yet first time director Mariana Chenillo never loses sight of the essential humanity of the situation which, at its core, is the on-going friction between those who believe and those who don’t. “All religions are the same,” Jose insists. “All manipulation and money.”

Winner of the best film direction award at the 31st Moscow International Film Festival, Nora’s Will ultimately (and unexpectedly) recalls the under-appreciated “Pieces of April,” a Thanksgiving-themed film starring a pre-TomKat Katie Holmes. In both, people of all backgrounds come together to share a special meal and a spiritual connection.

And even dear unhappy Nora finally gets to rest in peace.

Eleanor Ringel Cater

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Would love to buy a DVD of this movie.
Would comment afterwards.

Comment by ruth

Saw the riviting movie yesterday and am still thinking about it. It should have explored the reasons which led up to Nora’s unhappiness,her relationship with her ex-husband prior to the divorce and why she didn’t marry the doctor afterwards.

Comment by Andrea

Where can I buy the DVD of this movie?

Comment by carol

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