Film reviews

Manchester Film Festival: Nona

Michael Polish’s Nona closed the 2018 Manchester Film Festival, as audiences were left depressed with the presentation of how hope and risk can lead to despicable outcomes that no woman should have to live under.

Nona opens with a brief narration by its titular lead, played by One of the Good Ones’ Sulem Calderon, talking about the present, thus confirming that the subsequent story events on screen have already occurred. Beginning with a dark narration suggests to Nona’s audience that the story will eventually transcend into darkness. Nona is a Honduran beauty/make-up artist with the ever long desire of seeing her mother, whom is based in the US.

More or less appearing out of nowhere with his fashionable clothing and constant smile, there is Hecho (One of the Good Ones’ Jesy McKinney). Hecho begins to stalk Nona throughout her day, but it is okay because he has some sort of charm and Nona doesn’t call the police – is this for real? Hecho’s stalking has no legitimate background, until later that is. For too much of Nona, a boring and flat out weird story is presented of Hecho chasing around Nona.

The pacing of Nona and general interest only develop when – after Nona has revealed her desire of being reunited with her US-based mother – Hecho offers her the opportunity to be smuggled into the US. Now that this story beat has occurred in Nona, the feel of this film has transcended into crime, of which was a blessing. Hecho’s display as the charming stalker continues to wear off when Nona is introduced to Hecho’s weirdo friend, Billy (Here Comes the Devil’s Giancarlo Ruiz). Accepting of Hecho’s offer to be smuggled, Nona is transported into the US wearing a tie over her eyes, disabling her ability to identify the smuggler(s) if captured.

Not only does Nona have her vision disabled, but the audience does too, as only sound is present. Nona not being able to see her transportation into the US sums up the feel and legitimacy of her travel. Normally, when visitors travel to the US, they can look out of their airplane window to see beautiful sights in from the horizon, but with Nona, that doesn’t exist, but the likes of mystery, danger and uncertainty certainly do exist. Arriving in the US, but far from the US sold on TV to potential tourists, Nona is planted in a suspicious-looking neighbourhood, face-to-face with the underworld of sex trafficking.

The true talents of Sulem Calderon are only on display in Nona’s third act, sadly. Though Calderon’s acting is fine, but nothing special in the first hour of Nona, all the audience has routing for Nona is that she is desperate to see her mother in America, thus the audience has hope that she can do that at some point, but that is the only audience care for majority of Nona, unfortunately.

Hecho – a character of unbelievably great importance – is an absolutely terrible waste and complete let down in Nona. Played by One of the Good Ones’ Jesy McKinney, Hecho follows Nona around town (stalking), establishing a clear interest, and Nona looks to fall for him, despite not actually know him. There is not much wrong with McKinney’s acting, but the character is too boring to put it mildly.

The great mistake in Nona is that once Hecho’s relevance comes to light in the third act, the audience struggles to really care because – for almost two thirds of a film – he is a tiresome, uninteresting viewing. However, the only slight interest in the Hecho character is when Nona is introduced to one of his heavily drugged-up friends and driver, Billy – brilliantly sleazy with his dialogue and abnormally large sideburns, Billy is almost resembling of Benicio Del Toro in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Bosch’s Titus Welliver. Hilarity aside, it is shameful that Hecho’s sleazy friend with maybe 10 minutes of screen time is much more entertaining that Hecho himself.

The star name of Nona Superman Returns’ Kate Bosworth – plays a character that is sympathetic, but in a patronising manner. Despite a top-billing on IMDb for example, and the only character to be pictured with the Manchester Film Festival’s official programme, Bosworth’s police detective character is not in Nona for a significant amount time, though the character holds quite some significance. Sadly, there is a slight touch of Bosworth’s on-screen involvement being nothing more than an “executive producer’s cameo”.

Ultimately, Nona feels a very much missed opportunity at being an infinitely important movie of which is good throughout, but it is sadly one with the “too little too late” phrase, as only the third act is worthy of acclaim. If for one second, the first hour or so of Nona can be ignored, Nona presents a disgusting, vulgar and despicable business that is happening right now. Sex trafficking is happening right now. Sex trafficking is not only exclusive to the women of Honduras crossing into the US, but it is in existence all over the world. Though far from a brilliant movie, Nona successfully raises awareness of a business that has to end now.

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