Words by Sophie Kindreich
Part of Glasgow Film Festival’s Spanish cinema strand, Andrea Bagney’s Ramona is an engaging character study with a textured lead performance from Lourdes Hernández. The titular Ramona is impulsive and scatterbrained. At 31 she’s a nanny, a translator, and an aspiring actor. She’s also an orphan, which she calls ‘the biggest abandonment there is’. She’s dissatisfied with the stability in her life, namely her long-term relationship with Nico, but deeply fearful of losing it. Ramona’s characterisation is all too believable and her behaviour will frustrate as much as resonate.
Ramona gets talking to a stranger in a Madrid bar. They chase their coffees with brandy shots and beers, drunkenly putting the world to rights. When the stranger confesses his love for Ramona she storms off, unaware he’s directing the film she’s auditioning for the following day. By casting her, the stranger, Bruno, sets off a volatile tug-of-war in Ramona’s heart. The love triangle is the least interesting part of the film but serves its purpose as a vehicle to explore Ramona’s chronic indecisiveness.
In auditions, Ramona performs monologues inspired by Annie Hall and Before Sunset, films about fellow neurotic romantics, and there are nods to the French New Wave. Ramona wears these influences on its sleeve, but it’s too mannered to achieve the earnest intimacy of Linklater’s trilogy or the effortless cool of Godard. That’s an unfairly high bar for a first-time filmmaker, but Ramona invites these comparisons by referencing them so openly.
Ramona playfully experiments with colour in a way that feels in keeping with its French New Wave influences. The majority of the film is in black and white but key scenes where Ramona is in front of a camera are in colour. This stylistic choice lends the monochrome scenes an air of artifice, suggesting that Ramona is at her most unguarded when she’s on camera. Hernández aids this by letting Ramona’s vulnerabilities surface in the colour scenes.
Filmed on location, Ramona makes extensive use of Madrid’s built environment — metro stations, fishmongers, and picturesque alleys and plazas. The bar where Ramona first meets Bruno is El Trebol, about which Bruno remarks: ‘these bars are almost extinct… Now they’re all franchises’. It’s a pointed reference to gentrification and tourism and their detrimental impact on a city’s character. Ramona ends in the ornate century-old Cine Doré, a charming finish for a film so enamoured with the medium of cinema.
Ramona screens at Glasgow Film Festival on 7th and 8th March.