Ramona is an engaging debut feature from writer/director Andrea Bagney. This (mostly) black-and-white love letter to French New Wave hits all the right notes with a particularly strong performance from Lourdes Hernández.
Aspiring actor Ramona (Lourdes Hernández) passes a lazy afternoon in a bar, striking up a lively conversation with a stranger. She returns home to her boyfriend Nico (Francesco Carril) and frets over an important audition taking place the next day. It is more awkward than she could ever have imagined, leaving her torn between head and heart, ambition and fidelity.
If Ramona is one thing, it is self-aware. Be it the odes to Annie Hall or the knowledge that it follows some (but importantly not all) tropes that are locked in with it being a romantic comedy, it knows to stay on its toes as it guides the audience through Ramona’s sudden conundrum. With easy chemistry between the three leads, there is more than enough here to keep you interested.
Refreshingly for a dramedy love triangle, we do not have characters who fit into their stereotypical moulds. Normally we would be all in on Ramona and Bruno running off to have their creative and lively life together, but Bruno grates us just enough not to be all in on him. Similarly, there is nothing at all wrong with Nico, he just isn’t as attentive as Ramona would want him to be, but as a chef, he is probably likely to be less on the ball during his downtime. But he is as dependable and someone who has been there for Ramona as one of the few constants she can lean on.
This leaves us with Ramona herself; Lourdes Hernández is a joy as our titular character. Wisely she is written as the opposite of the standard quirky lead; she is more developed than that by being more thoughtful about her predicament. We get to truly feel for her as she tussles with what she should do with her current situation. It helps immensely how impressive Hernández is throughout, so when she has to make her decision, we are all in with her. Does she stick with what she knows, or does she twist with a relationship while brimming with emotion, could easily be destructive?
That is perhaps what Bagney does best with her film. While the situation Ramona is not unique, her attitude and perspective are written in a manner that feels not far off a real situation. Instead of moments of laughs, there are chuckles the whole way through. You are endlessly charmed here by our lead; Bagney has been very sharp with all of her choices throughout Ramona.
By springing us back into colour every once in and while during the production moments of the film, we are almost dragged back to reality. Whilst in black and white, everything feels like a dream, a conundrum trying to work itself out engagingly. But, when that colour returns, we realise there are actual emotional stakes at hand at play. Ramona, as much as she would like to, cannot simply make such a decision on a whim; she is wise enough to know that situations like the one she is in
Andrea Bagney knows when to get in and get out with Ramona. Running at a brisk 80 minutes, this is a very tight and strong script that comfortably ticks all the boxes you would want in a romantic dramedy. While the film becomes a bit looser in the later half, that fantastic opening scene with Ramona and Bruno in the bar has you fall for it.
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