Ramona – Review

Ramona Lourdes Hernandez Bruno LastraThere have been many attempts, on film, at unpicking the industry itself. Whether it’s a classic like Singin’ in the Rain, a biopic like Ed Wood, or artistic meditations on how damn hard it is to produce a piece of cinema (a la ), cinema has always found a way to hold up the mirror to itself.

And so Andrea Bagney’s feature-length debut, Ramona, joins an illustrious list of film titles. Her titular character is attempting to focus on just one career path – acting – and we meet her at this point in her life. She goes to a bar, where she has animated and frenetic discussions about everything from global warming to new-wave feminism with Bruno (Bruno Lastra), a handsome stranger who happened to spot her across the counter.

But just a few hours after they meet, Bruno tells Ramona (Lourdes Hernandez) that he loves her and that she should leave her long-term partner for him. Repulsed, she storms off, only to find – the very next day – that Bruno is the man who will decide whether or not she is cast in her first film.

Some have billed this film as an existential crisis of a Millennial. This review doesn’t view the film through that lens at all. If you want to watch a film that truly encapsulates the essence of that particular type of crisis, please watch Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World. Instead, this film seems to oscillate wildly between some sort of commentary on the #MeToo movement (and the specific abuses of power within the film industry) and a “will they / won’t they” romance.

The film is split into six chapters as it charts Ramona’s relationship with Bruno. Although she professes to love her chef boyfriend, Nico (Francesco Caril), it is clear that she thrives on Bruno’s attention. The most obvious reference to this is when Bruno has Ramona rehearse in front of the camera. As he gazes at her, the film (which is shot in moody black and white), suddenly bursts into full colour. We can see her lilac sweater, her burgundy lips, and her platinum blonde wig set against her dark eyebrows. Is Bagley intimating that Bruno is the only one who truly “sees” our lead? Because that feels more than a little off, given the power dynamic between the two.

Ramona Lourdes HernandezLourdes Hernandez – better known to some as the singer Russian Red – is excellent in the lead role. The breathless close-ups of her doe-eyes emphasise Bruno’s obsession. She appears chaotic and carefree yet professes to want children and a house in the suburbs. She wants to be taken seriously as an actress but throws jealous fits when Bruno brings another woman into the film. She is just about every contradiction you would expect of the portrayal of a stereotypical Millennial. However, despite the cliches, Hernandez does reach beyond the surface to deliver a captivating performance.

The dynamic between Ramona and Bruno is an uneasy one. Not in the sense that they have no chemistry – that is, undoubtedly, palpable from the moment they meet – but in the sense that this doesn’t feel like a relationship you should be rooting for. Lastra’s eyes dance with charisma and machismo as he looks longingly at his protegee. But doesn’t this feel like hunter and prey? You’re not sure why Ramona should leave her thoughtful, hard working boyfriend for a man who looks like he would discard her as soon he discovered the next shiny new thing. The fact that Bagley pitches this as a “will they / won’t they” romance – right down to the tired old cliché of “will she / won’t she” get on the train and follow him home – feels dangerously misplaced. It doesn’t feel charming. It feels gross and borderline abusive.

The score is a real stand out, in amongst the mixed messaging of the script. Containing beautiful classical works, it feels like a slice of classic Hollywood. It teeters on the melodramatic, which suits some of the scenes perfectly. The hyperbolic flourishes of the searing strings are a fantastic touch. The shots of Madrid – complete with tiled walls, busy open air restaurants, and apartment balconies sprawling with flowers and foliage – are a clear love letter to the city. These, too, add a nice dash of style and a sense of place.

Ramona feels too confused in order to make an impact. Whilst the chemistry between the two leads is certainly brimming, it’s just not a relationship that feels right. Although the performances are good and the style is oh-so-cool, the central romance feels too objectionable to root for.

Ramona is up for the Audience Award at the Glasgow Film Festival 2023 and is part of the Country Focus: Spain strand. Get your tickets here.

Mary Munoz
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