Review: Nico

Written and directed by Eline Gehring, co-written by Francy Fabritz and Sara Fazilat, Nico enjoys the summer in Berlin with her best friend Rosa until a racist attack pulls her out of her carefree everyday life. Traumatized by the crime, the geriatric nurse decides never to be a victim again and begins to train with a karate world champion. Starring: Sara Fazilat, Sara Klimoska, Javeh Asefdjah, Andreas Marquardt and Sabrina Tannen.

The opening tones of Nico indicate a lot of what’s to come, mixing a confident, happy woman riding a bike with an onslaught of hateful language. The story then gives you a little time to get to know its titular heroine before dropping a huge punch to the gut with a disgusting, barbaric hate crime committed against her. Her then unwillingness to want to re-enter society is entirely justified, leaving her searching for the one option that will get her out again, being able to defend herself. The rest of the story is a compelling exploration on the impact of trauma, how it changes your view of the outside world and what you want your place to be in it. At the same time it touches upon that having a new need to fight back isn’t always a positive thing, when a form of violence then becomes your sole focus and shutting everything else out. While it doesn’t ignore that life can sometimes knock people down harder than they can handle, the theme runs throughout that you have to find new hope to move forward.

Visually it holds a very natural feel, the palette encapsulates the summer, it has a great use of colour which heightens the energy without undermining the more serious tone. There’s a uniquely styled charm to it, it’s not too sharp or too rough, it’s personal but poignant. Its story doesn’t move fast but with the help of the editing work, it keeps a good pace. It also uses the scenes of Nico’s work as a nurse to add an undercurrent of how much simple gestures can mean to someone. When Nico is then reeling from her trauma, and those gestures start to disappear, it shows the impact on the people she cares for, lovingly portraying how much the brief moments she spends with them really mean.

A lot is asked of the lead performance from Sara Fazilat, it’s a role which is certainly no walk in park and holds a great deal of emotion but Fazilat handles it perfectly. She holds an independent, caring charm, so much so that it’s then heart-breaking to watch her retreat so far into isolation after her attack. There’s a sincere harshness to her character as the trauma changes her, making it more gripping waiting and hoping for her return to some form of normalcy, as well as willing her to accept help from others. Javeh Asefdjah gives a bubbly performance as Nico’s best friend, she’s carefree, looking for a good time but there when she’s needed. Sara Klimoska is an interesting change of that pace, an unknown entity, breezing into their lives and not revealing too much about herself, but bringing protective and generous qualities.

Nico is a harsh but necessary reminder of the hatred people are still battling against each day. It dives headfirst into the lasting impact of trauma, and the difficulty to fight your way out of the dark cloud it puts upon you. Sara Fazilat moves Nico so swiftly from a kind young woman to one who’s fiercely closed off, the harder she pushes people away, the more heart-breaking it is to watch. That heavy natured story skilfully doesn’t impact the visual which has a consistently great use of colour and energy capturing the summer feel, not an easy balance to pull off. It takes a patient, real and moving route to show that you have to find hope again after life knocks you down.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Reviewed as part of BFI Flare 2022

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