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Nothing More
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by Brian McKay

"NOTHING MORE could have used a bit less"
3 stars

Released in its native Cuba as NADA + (Nada Mas), the first thing most audiences outside of Cuba will notice is that it bears more than a few similarities to the French film AMELIE. But while NOTHING MORE has several things that set it apart from that film, and several qualities that recommend it, it is also hampered by plenty of things that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

The heroine of the piece is one Carla Perez (Thais Valdes), an attractive but lonely postal worker who stamps letters all day long. Constantly sporting belly shirts and short hair with blonde-frosted tips, she looks a bit more rough around the edges than Audrey Tautou’s waifish French pixie. However, she seems to have some of the same whimsical tendencies and unfulfilled romantic yearnings.

When boredom at her work leads to a kind of perverse inspiration, she begins taking random letters home with her (a big illegal no-no, of course) and reading them. She then begins to rewrite them and forward them on, with the intent of helping the recipients. Through her mail room meddling, she manages to unite a teacher and college student in a smoldering romance, rekindle the love between an estranged father and daughter, and even gives a terminally ill and suicidal woman the hope to go on living. She recruits the aid of a rico-suave postal carrier named Cesar (Nacho Lugo) as a co-conspirator in the mail smuggling, and naturally the inevitable romance blooms between them.

However, there’s trouble down at the post office (Not the disgruntled employee with an AK-47 kind of trouble, but almost as bad). A new postmaster has been assigned to take over the division where Carla and Cesar work, and has decided that her mission in life is to be the most loud, annoying, screaming cow she can possibly be and to make the lives of her employees (and the audience) intolerable. Cunda (Daisy Granados) takes an especially strong dislike towards Carla, trying to catch her doing something wrong at every turn.

There’s a lot to like in Nada +. Valdes is an enjoyable protagonist and gives a strong performance, and Lugo is an equally likeable love interest. The lighthearted premise is often fun, and the choice of shooting primarily in black and white, while punctuating certain objects within the scene in vivid color, makes for a film that is pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, the road becomes a bit rocky due to some of the films ill-conceived comedy bits and languid moments of overly melodramatic letter-reading. Nada + gets especially bogged down by a number of slapstick comedy segments which are populated by irritating caricatures who scream, laugh, cry, and mug for the camera in the most exaggerated ways possible. Occasionally it brings a smile to the face, but mostly it’s just silly and annoying and detracts from the film’s more subtle and intelligent moments of genuine humor. It’s like watching a lost, unfunny episode of The Benny Hill Show in Spanish. Likewise, some of the scenes of the mail recipients reading their altered letters, as Carla’s speaks breathy words of love or hope in the voice-over narrative, are so suffused with pathos that they practically implode upon themselves, only to suffocate in the rubble.

As for the similarities to Amelie, director Juan Carlos Cremata dismissed those as a coincidence during the Q & A session following the film. Although a big fan of Amelie after the fact, the way he first heard about the similarities is when the film was undergoing post-production editing at the same lab where Amelie had just finished its own post production work, and the employees there were surprised by how alike they were. But while Nada + has plenty of things to recommend it as much more than a Cuban Amelie knockoff, it has an almost equal number of annoying contrivances that drag the film down to just below a four-star rating.

If you’re more forgiving of silly comedy and heavy melodramatics than I am, then you will probably enjoy aforementioned elements of NADA + much more. Indeed, the film received strong applause and a generally favorable reaction from the festival crowd. Still, although what could have been a really good film is dragged down to the point of merely being a pretty decent one, NADA + shows promise on the part of freshman director Cremata.

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originally posted: 05/04/03 16:11:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/29/08 sourav biswas excellant slapstick comedy bringing out the inner cravings of human mind 5 stars
10/21/05 Saul Flores Too much stupid acting,it's very funny but turns to befor idiots.The editing is very good! 3 stars
10/19/05 Matt Holland Appealing visuals in a light-hearted story with unfunny comedy bits 3 stars
6/21/04 Karine It's one of the best little production I have seen in 2004 so far. Great movie !! 5 stars
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