Nortenos

By Grandmas | Comedy
An idiot seeks out his ex-girlfriend after murdering his grandma with a hammer.

It's no understatement to say that Barry is a bit of a dimwit. He lives in northwestern England and doesn't seem to be up to much. But then he commits a brutal crime, almost out of thoughtlessness than anything else.

In order to cover it up, he seeks out the help of his ex-girlfriend Linda, meeting her at his local club -- and which proves to be a world-shifting occasion for Barry on its own.

Writing/directing duo Grandmas helm this absurdist dark comedy, which combines a certain grunge panache and bone-dry ironic dialogue with a surprisingly observant snapshot of its working-class milieu.

The visuals have a sense of minimalism, with bleached-out colors and a studied simplicity in the framing and composition. The film language leans on wide shots, emphasizing setting as much as character, and there is fascinating detail tucked into the background of the framing. The pared-down images also keep the focus on the dialogue as Barry and Linda talk, which reveals a certain mordant worldview in which savage actions are discussed with as much emotion as the weather.

The humor at the heart of the story is wry and laconic, emerging from the extreme matter-of-factness of its characters and tone. Nothing -- not even the most extreme situations -- seems to stir the characters out of their dull, monotone existences. Murder, break-ups, love, the logistics of disposing of bodies, family, job: it's all the same to these characters.

But that's the joke: momentous events happen, but they're all at the same level. Life, love and death are all just things to get through, like the washing-up or any other business of daily life. The tone hints at something like an extreme acceptance of the absurdity of life's oddities and people's eccentricities. It's dark and bleak, but when rendered on screen with such economy and style, it makes for a distinctive, unique filmmaking voice -- one that hits its apotheosis in a surreal, strange yet vividly singular final sequence.

Full of sly, stealthy wit and stylization, "Nortenos" is a stellar example of how an eccentric sensibility and point-of-view can come together to form its own set of fascinating tensions, as much as character, plot and obstacle. The drama on the page may be two exes coming back together, but handled with a self-aware, cheeky absurdism and a conviction about life's innate senselessness, it's as much about a worldview and a place. The world is a strange place full of happenstance and savagery, and "Nortenos" makes a rough kind of poetry of it all.




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