KVIFF 2022: 'Ramona' is a Witty Coming-of-Age RomCom from Spain
by Tamara Khodova
July 21, 2022
Every generation deserves its own fresh new take on the romantic comedy. The problem is that nowadays this genre has become marginalized and neglected for romanticizing abusive relationships and encouraging destructive behavioral patterns. So young directors have decided to disguise their new romcoms as movies about searching for oneself and making sense of oneself before they can feel comfortable in a relationship. Spanish filmmaker Andrea Bagney's feature debut Ramona, which premiered at the 2022 Karlovy Vary Film Festival, is no exception to this rule. The film explores this intricate struggle to understand what's next in the life of a young woman. It's filmed in old fashioned black & white inspired by classic French cinema.
After a couple of years in New York, Ramona (Lourdes Hernández) returns to her home of Madrid with an intention to start everything fresh. She has an important audition which could help her budding acting career, but right before that she follows the good old Spanish tradition and goes to a bar. There she starts a conversation with a guy called Bruno (Bruno Lastra) which quickly transforms into a heated discussion about the ill state of the world. Morning coffees are soon replaced by afternoon beers and occasional shots. Ramona & Bruno continue their discussion in the sunny streets of Madrid. It seems like it's a classic start of a romance story, but Ramona has a different opinion on that matter. She already has a partner, Nico, and she loves him very much. Wait, what? Yes, that's right, you've heard her correctly. Little does she know that the next morning she will go to the audition for that door-opening film and Bruno will be directing it.
There is something about modern directors and stories about thirty-something women. There have been lots of movies like this released in the last couple of years: El Planeta and The August Virgin both from Spain, and The Worst Person in the World from Norway (which was nominated for two Oscars). Ramona perfectly matches with the archetype established by these other films. She is a young woman who tried many different things in her twenties that don't bring her satisfaction anymore. But what does now? She has no idea. As Joachim Trier has already shown us, sometimes the worst person in the world is yourself, and it's difficult to do anything about it.
The titular Ramona is played by a Spanish singer-songwriter, Lourdes Hernández, also known as "Russian Red" who establishes her character through a series of monologues. Technically Ramona is preparing them for her auditions but it's not hard to figure out that lots of it comes from her own personal experiences. She begrudgingly agrees to act in Bruno's movie, so he tries to get to know her better by placing her in front of the camera and prompting her to tell him about herself. In these moments this black & white movie suddenly switches to full color to remind us that we are looking at Ramona through the lens of the camera. These are the only moments when we can understand what is really happening in her head. It is a nice trick, although the more the director uses it, the more contrived it feels.
Nico and Bruno serve as living and breathing metaphors for Ramona's past and future. Neither of them is good or bad. It's either Bagney's desire to show that in modern relationships no one is toxic to each other anymore or another (rather unfortunate) feature of modern movie romance which is an attempt to smooth things over. In most of the films, this results in a rather dull narrative (Marry Me is a good example) but Bagney manages to keep it energetic with the help of fascinating inner conflict. It is still purposefully dull, though, in terms that the director wants to show us a real day-to-day life with its little victories and sorrows.
Ramona the film offers a sense of solidarity and serves as a proof that you are not the only one who is lost. Characters in coming-of-age stories become older and older as if we are holding onto our childhood dreams until it's no longer possible to pretend that adult life doesn't exist. The funny thing is that even when you finally understand what it is that you really want, even if it's just "lots of kids, smoking 10 packs a day and being skinny" it's not that easy to figure out how to make it a reality and not get lost along the way. Ramona the person must face her fears and these kind of inner struggles are always fascinating to watch on screen especially because the audience is not the one who must deal with them.
Tamara's Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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