De cerca nadie es normal [subtitled]

De Cerca Nadie es Normal

De cerca nadie es normal (English translation: “No One’s Normal When You’re Near”), is the first feature-length movie from Argentinian filmmaker Marcelo Mosenson. It’s from 2008 and as far as I know has not had a full, conventional distribution, instead being screened at various film festivals and such.

Mosenson’s prior experience in film included co-authoring a book on cinematographic photography, working under well-known filmmakers like Costa-Gavras on various projects, making documentaries, and making the short film Vecinos (Spanish for “Neighbors”).

My only previous familiarity with his work was the aforementioned Vecinos, which I saw, and wrote an essay about, many years ago.

I liked Vecinos OK. In fact, it turned out to be a film that grew on me after the fact. If you had asked me right after I saw it how I would rate it, I’d have put it somewhere around the middle—say, about 50th of the last hundred short films I’ve seen. I realized later, though, that it stuck with me more than most, that months or years afterwards I remembered it better than most, that it struck me as having maybe a little more psychological depth than I had initially been conscious of. So in retrospect, maybe I’d bump it up to 30th or so out of the last hundred short films I’ve seen.

Anyway, Mosenson actually came across my piece on Vecinos online and contacted me, responding quite favorably to it and asking if I could watch De cerca nadie es normal and write one of my essays on it if I were so inclined. It took some time to work it out, as no English-subtitled version of the film existed at the time, but ultimately I did indeed get the opportunity to watch it online.

I mention that as a sort of disclaimer that of all the hundreds (over 700 as I write this) movies and short films I’ve written about so far, this is the first time it has ever been by request or I have ever had any kind of connection or communication with the people responsible for a film that was the subject of one of these pieces.

That raised the question for me of whether that would affect my writing. It shouldn’t, and I don’t want it to, but would it? I mean, what if I really didn’t like the movie at all? Certainly it’s not as extreme a case as if I were being paid by someone to write about his or her film, but I have to think it’s just human nature to want to avoid having to tell someone, “Hey Marcelo, here’s a link to the piece I wrote on your film,” and direct him to an essay that trashes his work, at least compared to if I were writing about the work of a total stranger who will not only never communicate with me about it, but will almost certainly never even be aware of what I wrote in my tiny little corner of the Internet.

It’s not just a matter of whether to write favorably or unfavorably about the film, but also whether I would feel free to write in my usual idiosyncratic style. That is, I tend to approach these pieces in a “Here’s what happens to be on my mind after seeing this film” style, which only sometimes results in something close to a conventional movie review, but can instead veer off into anecdotes about me and my life that relate to the film, discussions of issues the film happened to raise in my mind, random politically incorrect remarks (e.g., the lead actress has great tits or whatever), and other subjective things—very much like if I were going out for coffee with friends after seeing a film and making comments about it just as my civilian self and not in the role of some formal movie critic. Would I still be able to write in that kind of personal style in this situation, or would I feel like, no, I have to play it straight here and write a “real” movie review?

Well, I don’t know how this will affect me subconsciously, but at least consciously I’m going to try to write exactly what I would have written had I seen the movie without ever having had any contact with the filmmaker. So on to De cerca nadie es normal.

The film mostly has a low budget feel. Very little music. Zero fancy special effects. No scenes with a massive number of extras. No great variety of elaborate sets. Indeed it all takes place in and around one house.

Like in many films nowadays—maybe independent and foreign films especially—there are frequent jump cuts. So, someone will be speaking on camera for 20-30 seconds, but instead of all being one shot it’ll be four or so different shots strung together, where there’s that herky-jerkiness to the transitions. I still find that a little jarring, as I associate it with not getting one good take—and for budgetary or other reasons not being able to go back and reshoot the scene—and so having to splice together multiple takes and hope no one notices, but I realize that in reality it is instead an artistic, stylistic decision. I suppose I’m gradually getting used to it.

The simplicity of the physical environment and the dialogue-heavy nature of the action makes it the kind of drama I could see being staged as a play. On the other hand, there’s something routinely unnatural about the declamatory style of the dialogue in plays—and in movies that are basically just filmed plays—and De cerca nadie es normal does not have that distinctive artificiality to it.

From the very, very little background material there is about the film online, I gather that the actors and actresses were placed in this house, told who they were and what the basic situation was, and then pretty much left free to improvise their dialogue. If so, I’d say the acting and/or editing is very good, in that films that are largely improvisational like that often have an awkwardness to them, whereas the dialogue here, the interaction between characters, feels smooth and professional. Had I not known it was improvised I would not have guessed it.

The movie is very narrow not just in place but in time, taking place entirely over the course of one evening. Vicky is having her 26th birthday party at her parents’ house. The parents are out of town, and Vicky’s Aunt Monica is housesitting it for them, or perhaps lives there. There are about a dozen guests, mostly in their 20s and 30s I’d say.

This isn’t the kind of film that sets the scene for you early so that you have a good sense of who’s who and what all is going on with these folks. Instead, it just kind of drops you in the middle of them and then very gradually you figure out more and more of the context. Yet even by the end it’s not like all the loose ends are tied up and the picture has been fully filled in. You get bits and pieces of these characters’ lives and stories, with always the realization that there’s far more to both that remains unrevealed to you. In that respect, it’s a lot more like the typical indie (and like life for that matter) than like the typical mainstream movie.

That can be confusing, especially early, and I’m sure that with the added factor of having to deal with subtitles there are plenty of details I missed that I’d maybe catch if I watched it a second or third time, but I never found it terribly frustrating. It’s a little more work than a mainstream movie, and you do have to stick with it and pay attention, but that’s true of most intelligent movies.

What you find out fairly early—and then over the course of the film more and more implications of this are gradually brought out—is that the central event of these people’s recent lives is that three years earlier Vicky’s brother Luis died in a drunk driving accident. It’s the so-called elephant in the room. In the intervening three years, many of these people have seen each other only sporadically or not at all; this is the first time they’ve come together as a group like this, and no one seems to know quite whether or how to talk about Luis’s death, his role in their lives, and the impact his death has had on them.

I want to get into some specifics about the story and about some of the characters, so this is probably a good spot for a spoiler warning. Some of what I’ll write about comes from early in the film, some from the middle, and some from toward the end, so if you’d rather learn it all instead from the film itself, you might want to stop here.

Some of the characters came alive for me more than others. I was especially drawn in by them, and desirous of better understanding just what was going on with them. Perhaps if I watched the movie multiple times I’d find all the characters worth exploring like that, but on one viewing I found myself able to focus closely on at most half of them.

It’s a film that invites psychological analysis of its characters. As I watched it and as I thought back on it afterward, I couldn’t help but speculate about these people and their emotional states.

Birthday girl Vicky has elements of the spoiled rich girl (this is clearly a wealthy family; the parents are on an extended stay in Europe), though not to the extreme that she’s really unlikable or evil. She’s attractive. Not phenomenally so, but more in the sense that when you’re a conventional person from a family with a lot of money, you’re very likely to have the genes, resources, knowledge, and experience to end up reasonably attractive. That is, you have all necessary dental work done as a child, from early on you know your way around stylish and expensive clothing and cosmetics, you have access to upscale gyms and other fitness opportunities, you naturally pick up from your social environment a certain winning social grace and deportment, and so on. You sense that she has developed in such a way that she takes it for granted that she will be popular, people will be attracted to her, and she will be the center of attention.

She’s used to getting her way, too. Her boyfriend is something of a schlub (to such a degree as to arguably be a caricature, though later in the film he does stand up for himself a bit), and she effortlessly dominates him. As the spoiled princess type, she’ll let everyone know, him included, whenever things aren’t just as she wants them, and she’ll expect them to rectify that immediately.

I wouldn’t say she’s completely self-centered, though. I mean, it’s clearly important to her that this occasion go just the way she wants, that she receive the kind of birthday celebration she feels entitled to. But she’s the kind of naturally social being who is also very conscious of, and concerned with, how everything else is doing. She wants this occasion to be a big success not just for her but for all of them.

And of course it all relates, as it always does for all of these characters, back to Luis and his death. The way I read her, what she wants most of all (well, aside from her brother being alive) is that she be able to get back to living a normal life not dominated by the death of a loved one, that she and her family and friends be able to once again do things like have an enjoyable birthday party with laughing and singing and gift giving and such, where everyone is not constantly aware of who is missing.

Not that she’s cold-hearted or wants to forget about her brother or anything like that, but, you know, she has done her grieving, and, like I say, she wants to get back to the life that she was accustomed to and enjoyed, and get back to how they all used to be able to interact with each other.

So, once the guests arrive, she goes through the evening with a cheeriness that is sincere to a degree and feigned to a degree, a kind of forced, social, positive thinking (“Come on guys! Let’s have a good time! We’re all having a good time, right?”). By the end, when the guests have left, and she no longer has to sustain that cheery façade, and she is confronted by the realization that even if the party was not a total disaster it certainly had significant conflict, significant tension—i.e., the ghost of Luis was very much still present—she looks devastated and alone.

In terms of what they want from this occasion, you could say that Soledad is the mirror image of Vicky.

For a time, it’s hard to fathom why Soledad has even come to this party. She’s glum and preoccupied. And I’m thinking: Whatever it is about being here that’s making you sit there and look miserable, and bring everyone else down in the process, maybe you should have stayed home.

But as you find out, Soledad is Luis’s widow. Furthermore, she was the one driving drunk in the accident that killed Luis. Evidently some of the people who loved Luis—including some of the people at this party—blamed her, and were and in some cases still are angry and unforgiving with her about it. And even those who were not hostile toward her about it still never reached out to her and consoled her for her loss. Maybe they were closer to him than to her and there was a social awkwardness to reaching out to her. Maybe they didn’t want to get in the middle of the conflict between her and those who were angry with her. In any case, the neglect made the pain of her loss even greater.

I gather these folks, including her, were all part of the same social circle. I don’t think she was some outsider who married into the circle, connected to the others only by Luis. I think most or all of them were important people in her life. So when upon his death they all became uncomfortable with her at best, or hostile toward her at worst, she lost not only a husband but a whole network of friends.

So why is she here? Well, like I say, it’s kind of the opposite of Vicky’s motivation. Vicky wants them to get on with their lives, to manifest that they have achieved some kind of closure concerning the tragic event of three years ago, to get back to being happy and not thinking about Luis and about death. But Soledad wants it known that at least as far as she’s concerned there has been no closure. She craves to talk about Luis, to cry over his death with these people, to exchange stories of his life with them, to be listened to and have her pain acknowledged, to defend herself against any accusations or ill will they still harbor toward her.

It’s the difference between “I hope enough time has passed that we don’t have to still be talking about this” and “I hope enough time has passed that we can finally talk about this.”

Vicky wants everyone to at least go through the motions of a happy celebration among friends, and if there’s some element of phoniness to that, so be it; it’s better than remaining mired in the past and not being able to live the life that people like her are entitled to live. Whereas Soledad wants them to be real with each other, to not treat the events of three years ago as a taboo topic but to open up about what happened and let their emotions out about it.

To Vicky, small talk is a welcome social lubricant that keeps them away from more dangerous subjects. To Soledad it’s infuriatingly, depressingly evasive and keeps them away from the potentially cathartic subjects that she craves to dig into with them.

Then there’s Abril. She’s the 30-something academic who’s trying really, really hard to make sure everyone knows that she’s still youthful, sexy, and desirable, from the dyed blond hair, to the heels and short skirt, to the exposed cleavage, and especially to her 25 year old lover Diego that she has brought along, as the two of them spend much of the party climbing all over each other and making the kind of spectacle of themselves that the expression “Get a room!” was coined for.

She’s not unattractive certainly, but ironically she’d likely be hotter if she wasn’t forcing it.

Abril manifests the most hostility toward Soledad. When Soledad seeks to speak with her one-to-one, Abril at first rebuffs her, before reluctantly allowing a brief exchange, which soon turns antagonistic.

Clearly Luis was hugely important to Abril, and she sees him as some sort of fantasy figure, the one who could have solved all her man problems. The details aren’t revealed; like with so much in this movie you just infer what you can from what is said. Were she and Luis together, and then they broke up and he married Soledad instead but she hoped one day to get back with him? Were they having an affair? (Soledad suggests this at one point, but it’s not clear if it’s true or not.)

Abril criticizes Soledad and Luis as a couple, implying that she and Luis would have been far better together. It’s interesting, though, that she doesn’t blame Soledad for the problems in the marriage as you might expect, but alleges that Luis treated Soledad poorly (which Soledad denies). So she hasn’t romanticized Luis as some perfect guy, but perhaps is making the point that he’s a very imperfect guy whose worst side came out with the incompatible Soledad but whose best side would have come out with the compatible her.

In any case, she’s unsympathetic toward the widow Soledad. Basically her position is, you killed the man I love and I’ll never forgive you for it.

She’s a mean-spirited bitch to a degree, certainly. But in her way she’s very much in pain too, and I won’t say I don’t feel for her at all.

I doubt there was ever more than a tiny chance that she and Luis would end up together and would live happily ever after—I mean, he was married, and allegedly at least emotionally abusive in that marriage—but she has developed that fantasy in her mind because she has grown increasingly pessimistic that she can ever have that kind of relationship with any other guy who is still available to her in real life.

Yeah, there’s Diego, but he’s a limited bloke who serves little purpose beyond feeding her ego as a still sexually desirable woman. Not only do the others think there’s something inappropriate about how he’s all over her in public, but she comes to find it frankly tiresome as well.

She laments to one of the other characters that she just wants to find the right guy to love and be loved by, that whatever modest success she has achieved in other areas of life, such as career, she’ll always see herself as a loser and always be depressed as long as she lacks having that special someone in her life.

Diego is certainly a one-dimensional character, even more simplistic than Vicky’s schlub boyfriend. At first I thought of characters like that as a weakness of the film, but on reflection I’m not so sure.

I mean, initially someone like Diego strikes me as not realistic at all. Maybe he serves some artistic purpose, like in helping us understand Abril better, but come on, what are the chances that a guy at a gathering like this would constantly be nibbling on his girlfriend in front of everyone, and would barely say a word the whole evening beyond occasionally making bizarre comments concerning sounds women make during sex and such?

But you know where you find weird people, socially awkward people, eccentric people, people who do or say unexpected or inappropriate things? Real life. It’s like they say “Truth is stranger than fiction,” or when something crazy happens in life, people react, “If you wrote this in a story, no one would ever believe it!”

So to be “realistic,” is it really the case that all your characters have to behave in the most likely ways in all circumstances? If I had to speculate how I think it is most likely someone like him (the much younger boyfriend of a woman with whom he has an almost wholly sexual relationship, who brings him along to a social gathering where he doesn’t know anyone but her), would behave, I’m sure it wouldn’t be like he in fact does behave in this movie, but so what? Maybe in real life, there’s only a 2% chance, or a 0.2% chance, or whatever, that a guy like him in these circumstances would act like this. But 2% or 0.2% isn’t 0%, and like I say, there are plenty of eccentric and oddball people in the world who don’t do whatever happens to be statistically most likely in all circumstances.

I don’t think realism requires that everyone behave in the most likely way, but probably only has to satisfy the much weaker requirement that everyone behave in a way that’s at least possible or plausible.

Anyway, I have no trouble sympathizing with Abril. Not so much in her mean-spiritedness toward Soledad, but just in her loneliness and her increasing pessimism and hopelessness about finding the kind of loving relationship with a man that she craves. I mean, it’s a pretty universal lament. Just about everyone has felt some version of that in their life.

Though at the same time, there’s a part of me that couldn’t help harkening back to something I saw on one of Bill Maher’s Real Time shows a few years ago. I don’t remember all the details, but one of the people on his show—a young actress I think—was similarly venting about how hard it is to just find a nice guy who will respect you and treat you well, that you can settle into a comfortable, mutually loving relationship with.

And Maher, I’ll paraphrase, responded, “Bullshit! There are millions of guys like that. But they look like him,” and he motioned to one of the other guests, I think Carrot Top or someone like that, in any case someone who wouldn’t be considered conventionally attractive.

It got a laugh and all, including from the actress and Carrot Top (or whoever the guy was), but really there’s a lot of truth to that. (And I’m not saying at all that it’s only true of women.) When women go on and on about how it’s damn near impossible to find a nice guy who will treat them well, blah, blah, blah, what’s left unspoken is that what they really mean is they want a guy like that from within the subset of guys who are of the level of dating market value that they feel entitled to.

They might not admit it, even to themselves, but their priority is really to land a guy with the kind of looks, youth, income, prestige job, authoritative confident manner, whatever, that pushes all their buttons, and then secondarily they’d like him to have all the traits they actually verbalize as if they were most important to them, like being nice and respectful and honest and all that.

You know, that’s the secret when you get right down to it. And again I’m not saying that guys are much if at all more willing to do it than women are, but if you really want to be appreciated and treated well, try dating someone lower than you in dating market value.

So Abril can complain all she wants about how she really just craves to love and be loved, and about all the inadequacies of the Diegos of the world, but I’ll take her complaints more seriously when she gives some average or below looking 45 year old introverted store clerk or bank teller who has a crush on her a fair chance to have that kind of relationship with her.

I’d say Vicky, Soledad, and Abril are probably the “main” characters in what is for the most part an ensemble cast, or at least they’re the ones that stood out most to me or that I thought about the most looking back on this movie.

Of the others, I kind of liked Raul. I don’t know that I have very much to say about him, but I just found him a kind of entertaining, positive person, someone I suspect I would like in real life.

He’s an extroverted, sociable, happy sort, at least on the surface. He maybe doesn’t have as deep emotional motives as some of the others as far as why he has come to this gathering or what he hopes to get out of it. As important as anything to him is a much more practical concern.

It seems that he and Luis had withdrawn a large sum of money, or somehow obtained a large sum of money—maybe to invest in something, maybe or maybe not obtained in some shady way; I don’t think the details are revealed, at least not that I caught—and it happened to be in Luis’s possession in the car the night he was killed. Evidently there has been no socially permissible way in the intervening three years for Raul to inquire about this money, to lay claim to it, or half of it, or whatever. It’s not like at the funeral he could very well talk to Soledad or to Luis’s family, and smoothly say, “I’m so sorry for your loss and all, but, by the way, did you happen to find a bag of money in the car? Because that’s mine and I really, really need that money.”

The problem is, he finds that even after three years it’s still awkward to bring that up. He tries to talk to Vicky, to Monica, to Soledad about it, but none of them really wants to engage with him on the topic and help him.

It may sound like he’s not such a positive person at all, that here in this group of suffering people he’s just concerned about himself and about money, indeed money that may even have had some crooked source or intended use, but somehow he still comes across well to me. He’s not, or doesn’t seem to be, an amoral, uncaring, conniving person.

Yes, he’s focused on this money, but it may be that the circumstances are such that it’s justified, or at least understandable, that he would be. But at the same time he seems to be someone who wants everyone around him to be happy. He’s maybe a wheeler dealer to a degree, or someone who wants to play some angles to get ahead, but I think he has a good heart.

When he brings the money up to Soledad when she’s at something of a low point, she manifests little or no interest in or understanding of what’s he talking about, and can only respond with a pleading, “Could you give me a hug?” He instinctively responds in a very human way, acceding to her request. He’s not so fixated on his issue, as important as it is to him, to be unable to respond to a hurting friend in need.

At least that’s the way I read him. Maybe I’m being naïve, and he’s only being nice to people to stay on their good side to increase the probability of his getting his money, but to me he seems genuine.

The other character I’ll say a little bit about is Monica, Vicky’s aunt. She seems like kind of a miserable person for much of the movie. She says little, and when she does speak it’s generally to attempt to assert some kind of control over the others and over the situation. You sense that she has little in her life to be happy about, or to take pride in, and that the only way she knows to express herself and obtain anything that resembles respect or self-respect is to exercise petty authority.

She takes the attitude that this is her house (or at least that she’s in charge in the absence of Vicky’s parents), that there are certain rules in this house, and that she’s here to make sure those rules are enforced.

So, there will be no smoking in the house. There will be no alcohol. (Is this one in response to how Luis died?) No one will go into areas of the house where they are not allowed. All possessions in the house will be respected and treated with care. There will be order and discipline at all times.

Oh, and certainly no one is to sit in “her” chair.

She’s like the chaperone at a slumber party, making sure that no one sneaks any boys in.

She kind of hovers around monitoring the party more than participating in it. Mostly people go along with her assertions of authority, with exceptions here and there, most notably from Soledad, who again doesn’t want control but frankness and reality.

With Monica more than with the other characters, you have to speculate what’s going on with her, what has made her so miserable, and so miserable toward others. She’s generally stern and uncommunicative, but then at the very end after the guests have left, she lets loose some kind of rage or frustration that has been building inside of her by throwing a glass to the floor and shattering it, which is a startling moment.

What has caused such extreme emotions that have finally come to the surface? Does it, once again, come back to the death of Luis?

One of the most intriguing moments of the film, which may also be relevant to this question, occurs when Vicky speaks by phone with her parents, who you’ll recall are in Europe. After she speaks with her father, the phone is evidently passed to her mother. They chat briefly, and Vicky says, “No, Luis is not here Mom. Yes, OK. He’s about to get here with Soledad.”

What? The mother doesn’t know her son’s dead? My first thought is that maybe the parents actually live overseas in Europe and have been away this entire time, and for some reason the parents have not, or just the mother has not, been informed of Luis’s death.

But no, it’s pretty clear from other things that are said that they are just on a trip; they haven’t relocated to Europe permanently or semi-permanently.

I think the implication instead is that the mother is mentally ill in some way. Maybe the death of her son is something that was so devastating to her that it drove her crazy and put her in a state of denial. Maybe she is senile and has forgotten about her son’s death. In any case, evidently the family humors her by not forcing this information on her, but instead pretending that Luis is still alive.

There’s also a point in the movie where Monica says something like, “I’m the one who raised these kids! [i.e., Luis and Vicky].”

So let’s put it all together, again being very speculative here. There is no indication that Monica has much of a life beyond family—e.g., a successful career—nor does she seem to have her own kids. So it may be that she has put her whole heart, her whole sense of self-worth into this family. The father I gather from some things that are said is very career-oriented, and given what Monica says about having raised the children, perhaps the mother had some kind of early onset dementia or other significant mental disability well before Luis’s death, and Monica as a kind of live-in, childless nanny contributed far more to running the household and raising the children than the parents themselves did.

Now one of those kids, who may well have been much more like a son than a nephew to her, has died, and she has not received the sympathy conventionally afforded to a mother (much like Soledad has not received the sympathy conventionally afforded to a widow). The other kid has now grown up, and doesn’t seem all that close to Monica (perhaps Luis was always Monica’s favorite), and furthermore she and her friends do not respect Monica’s authority in the household the way she thinks they are obligated to.

Meanwhile, perhaps her sister or sister-in-law has gradually deteriorated mentally to where she in her way has been lost to Monica just as Luis has.

So what does she have left, after committing everything to this family? Who will listen to her, and respect and acknowledge her pain?

What’s the meaning behind the title, by the way? If it were “No One’s Normal When You’re Gone,” instead of “No One’s Normal When You’re Near,” the “You” would presumably refer to Luis. But who is the “You” in the actual title?

One possibility is Soledad. She’s the one character at this gathering that most makes the others uncomfortable and self-conscious. Her very presence reminds them of things they’d rather not be reminded of.

I’m not sure I’d want to implicitly elevate Soledad to being the main character in that sense, though. Like I say, it’s more of an ensemble piece, with all these characters being of roughly equal importance.

Another possibility is that in a less literal sense the “You” still refers to Luis. As I’ve described, Luis very much hangs over this gathering, affecting how these people interact and whether they can be “normal” with each other. He’s very much “here.”

As I look back on De cerca nadie es normal, I’m struck by how well it stayed with me, and how interested I was in many of the characters. As evidenced by what I’ve written, it’s the kind of film that really makes you want to explore these characters psychologically, to pay close attention to what is shown, and to speculate about what is not shown. In the end, we can have only a very, very incomplete picture of any of them (including the absent ones: the parents, and especially Luis). But that’s OK. I still very much enjoyed spending this time with them and thinking about them. I would have been fine with this film being a half hour to an hour longer; I would like to have had the opportunity to dig around inside them even longer.

I’m sure there are a million things—politics, money, luck, etc.—that go into why a movie is heavily promoted and distributed widely, distributed only in a more limited way, or never really gets off the ground and gets distributed at all. But if we’re talking purely about merit, I see no justification for De cerca nadie es normal not being treated as a significant movie of quality.

I don’t know that it’s highly similar to any other movie I’ve written about, but more broadly if we’re talking about foreign films that are very dialogue-heavy psychological explorations of multiple characters and their relationships, I suppose I could compare it in that sense to Private Fears in Public Places, May Fools, perhaps Metroland, and no doubt numerous others that don’t immediately come to mind.

Here’s the thing though: I frankly think De cerca nadie es normal is superior to all three of those movies, even though they all got full distribution, plenty of critical attention, etc. (I mean, it blows away Metroland, and I enjoyed it at least modestly more than the other two.)

Solid recommendation for De cerca nadie es normal. Congratulations on a fascinating film, Marcelo, and I hope it receives the attention it deserves.

[Note: I spoke with a friend who speaks Spanish, and he explained that the “You” in No One’s Normal When You’re Near is the impersonal you, not a reference to any specific person. So the title is more like No One Seems Normal When Observed From Up Close, you know, like, what we think of as normal isn’t really what people are like when you get to know them; that’s more just the façade they put up, but when things get emotionally intense you can sometimes see through to the real person.]