“Buen Día, Ramón” –The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

 

Buen Dia Ramon

The German-Mexican co-production, “Buen Día Ramón” (“Good Day, Ramón”) tells the unusual story of a poor young Mexican immigrant named Ramon who emigrates to Germany after having incredibly bad luck in his multiple attempts to emigrate to the US illegally. Desperately in need of finding work to support his mother and provide medicine to his grandmother, he decides, on a friend’s advice, to travel to Germany.

Ramon’s remarkable openness to accept the kindness of strangers and begrudge none of his hardships is rendered believable. Struggling to survive on the street, he sleeps in a train station, and becomes increasingly desperate to earn money to send home. Yet he never builds defenses, remaining optimistic and determined, with an innocent enthusiasm that is, at times, astonishing in its emotional generosity and guilelessness.

On an ordinary day shopping for something to eat, the young Mexican meets Ruth, a lonely senior.   Soon, she befriends Ramon and lets him sleep in her apartment basement, even though another tenant disapproves. In one especially poignant scene, Ramon has prepared a Mexican dinner for Ruth and they sit down to enjoy the meal together in her apartment. Ruth gradually reveals secrets she has never told anyone else. In turn, Ramon conveys his deep felt gratitude to her for changing his life. Confiding in each other in German and Spanish, neither understands the other in language but in emotion. Their bond is unbreakable.

I have to admit I am drawn to bicultural co-productions. The layers of complexity in navigating and directing actors with different cultural and linguistic points of view enriches the movie-viewing experience. “Buen Día, Ramón” exemplifies this. The alternating points-of-view are not only character-based but culturally based.

The actors who play Ramon (Kristyan Ferrer) and the German Ruth (Ingeborg Shöner) are understated, with such charm and poignancy that the incredible friendship becomes credible.   Ramon’s story is an unexpectedly lyrical tale of perseverance, tenacity, and generosity. “Buen Día, Ramóín” considers how friendship develops despite all sorts of challenges in a deeply affecting manner. This movie is a simple pleasure that no one should miss.

 

Note:  Available on Netflix

“The Past” (Le Passé)—Does the Past Define Us?

The Past

THE PAST (LE PASSÉ) was nominated for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or award, the Iranian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award , and a Golden Globe. Directed and written by Asghar Farhadi of “A Separation” fame (winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film).

 Ahmad, an Iranian man (the remarkable Ali Mosaffa) deserted his French wife Marie Brisson (the sublime Bérénice Bejo of “The Artist”) and her two children from a previous marriage. Now living in Tehran, he is asked to return to Paris to finalize his divorce because Marie wishes to marry a third time–to Samir (played by Tahar Rahim) who has a young son, Fauod. In the opening scene Marie meets Ahmad at the airport, they embrace, and they run through the rain to their car. In the rear window Marie doesn’t have a clear view and she almost hits another vehicle. This small scene is symbolic of what follows: looking back at events in the past, and not getting a clear view of their meaning.

“The Past” is a a web of intrigue of Rashomon proportions. Everyone tells their version of the truth, but they do not explain everything, and the viewer is puzzled by intentions, motives, and history. As “The Past” unfolds, each character is imprisoned by his or her own version of the past. Opportunities to move forward are constantly threatened by each character’s backstory.The past seems to dominate and destabilize, reminding us of our own mistakes and unintended consequences.

The movie, “The Past”, conveys Pedro Almodovar’s brilliant comprehension of women’s journeys: looking back at past turmoil without understanding how the past can define them if they let it. Here, in “The Past”, each female voice is counterpointed by an equally compelling male one, drawing us ever more deeply into understanding very flawed characters, involving shifting of point of view and perspective that we see in the very best novelists.

The mid-point of the drama hits a few speed bumps, but the plot twists command the viewer’s attention and the personal drama packs quite a punch with the impending day of reckoning for each character. The camera refuses to give us any relief even at the very end, when the most essential question of the drama is raised. “The Past is an emotional head-spinning ride that won’t leave anyone indifferent.

 

“The Innocents”—And War

Guest blogger: Barbara Donsky, author of the memoir Veronica’s Grave,  and blog owner of www.desperatelyseekingParis.com  For the unedited version of this review go to Barbara Donsky’s blog

 

Les innocentes

Les innocentes

Writers and film-makers continue to successfully mine stories stemming from World War II. “The Innocents”  is such a film—a Polish-French venture by the director Anne Fontaine that takes place in December 1945. Based on real events as described by Madeleine Pauliac, a French Red Cross doctor who had served with French troops in war-torn Poland, the film illuminates the various crises of faith that befall a convent of nuns who have been ravaged by marauding Russian troops who forced their way into the monastery and raped the helpless women.

Traumatized by their harrowing experiences, the nuns, having taken vows of chastity, are incapable of dealing with the violations of their bodies and their vows. None escapes the humiliation and shame of what has befallen them, no matter how unwarranted that shame might be.

How can God, in all His mercy,  allow such a terrible thing to happen to these unprotected sisters? What is the meaning of this diabolical turn of events? And what’s to become of the children?

The steely Reverend Mother (Agata Kulesza) is, above all, concerned that this scandal—a convent filled with pregnant nuns—not become public, as it could shred the authority of the Catholic Church. As the film engages the viewer from moral, spiritual and institutional perspectives, it brings to mind more recent scandals and institutional crises involving the Catholic Church that have, indeed, contributed to a weakening of religious institutions.

Filmed in muted tones by Caroline Champetier, the spare observational cinematography is magnificent—perfectly in keeping with the prayerful calm and simplicity of a Benedictine monastery, with the silence observed by the nuns at meals, and with the purity of the Angelus as sung at break of day, noon and evensong.

If the upbeat ending is unexpected, “The Innocents” is a blistering war movie by talented women about strong women looking out for one another and doing what needs to be done to survive.

Note:  “The Innocents” (Les Innocentes) is now in limited release at theaters nationwide.