Review: Ramona

Written and directed by Andrea Bagney, after living in London for several years, Ramona and her boyfriend Nico, return to Madrid where she hopes to re-start her acting career. The evening before her first audition she meets Bruno, an older man. The following day, at the audition, she discovers that Bruno is the director of the film. Starring: Lourdes Hernández, Bruno Lastra and Francesco Carril.

It’s not hard to see why Ramona would be immediately compared to the work of Greta Gerwig, it is undeniably reminiscent of Frances Ha but it also holds a huge Spanish spirit. The atmosphere it creates, the pacing and the energy also feel comparable to Pedro Almódovar, whose films always contain effervescent, relentless and unstoppable women. It’s like a parallel to the manic pixie girl, Ramona is uncontainable and flighty but presented in a way which takes hold of her own sexuality, rather than leaning on the male gaze.

That’s one of the great things that Andrea Bagney does with Ramona, she creates a strong perspective through the eyes of her protagonist. Akin to a modern take on classical romances like Roman Holiday, it holds that air of instant connection and fate. It’s a style that we’re often missing in today’s landscape, Bagney has demonstrated a better handle on the modern romance than almost all recent examples. Similar to what Jacques Audiard achieved with Paris, 13th District but with a bigger focus on comedy.

It’s not a laugh out loud sense of humour, it’s a gradually charming you completely off your feet style. It’s quick-witted with a touch of quirky, that constant barrage of dialogue has the typical endearing, challenging sarcasm and intelligence to it. A blissfully argumentative nature which you can’t look away from, waiting to see who’ll get the last word and how long it will take for the conflict to turn to affection. Choosing that monochrome aesthetic sharpens everything, it’s suave, confident and textured. Then layering that with a mix of colour in certain scenes to work alongside a change of tone is fantastic, it gives you a glance of all those extra details you were missing and that’s all you need.

Of course, none of that would work without a brilliant performance to guide all of that romance and charm, enter Lourdes Hernández. Hernández gives an engaging, fun and enchantingly flawed portrayal of Ramona. She’s bursting with energy but also massively hesitant about making decisions and is dealing with all the insecurities any woman feels. It’s a quintessential blend of characteristics which you’ll find in beloved independent cinema but it’s also unique to the character. That may sound contradictory but it’s true, it brings out that feeling of characters you know and love but never feels unoriginal.

Bruno Lastra is absolutely incessant as Bruno, his immediate commitment and almost obsessive like perception of fate is both sweet and slightly unnerving, in a good way. It’s another hark back to the classic romances in love at first sight and undeniable paths that have been laid in front of you. Whereas Francesco Carril gives us the stability in this story, he’s the reliable, constant and adoring partner. He creates the safety net for Ramona, this is not a story about an affair, it’s about connections and building a future for yourself. She’s set down a path where she can either stay with what she knows and what’s comfortable or take a chance.

Ramona is another rare example of how modern romances should be done. It takes from the classic and modern schools of romantic cinema to create something both refreshing and familiar. It’s fast paced with a superb about of personality, the monochrome aesthetic is almost hypnotic in how satisfying it is to watch. Lourdes Hernández leads the way with an impressive blend of confidence and insecurity, it’s frantic yet somehow sensible, her energy can be entirely all over the place and make perfect sense at the same time. Put simply, it’s enormously charming and an absolute joy to watch. It’s almost hard to believe that this is Andrea Bagney’s first feature.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2023

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