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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Wakefield


Dir. Gonzalo Calzada

Reviewer: Martyn Wakefield

Dementia has taken up a large portion of horror in recent years. With the likes of RELIC, DEMENTIA PART II and THE TAKING all making milestones it's easy to find a connection between the mystery, suspense and horror of the unknown. An illness that is scarier than the fictionality of the genre inevitably makes interesting subject matter but unlike the likes of THE TAKING, NOCTURNA: SIDE A shows a softer side but no less upsetting side to things.

Marina Artigas is Ulises, an old man near 100 who lives in an aging apartment with his wife, Dalia (Marilú Marini). As Usiles goes about collecting shopping for his wife he begins to lose memory of what he should be doing and indivertibly starts seeing spectres in the apartment block. The night that follows brings a visitor to their door that sends Usiles understanding of his world and life upside down.

NOCTURNA received it's UK premiere at the 2021 FrightFest and it's understandable why. The suspense of the unknown and supernatural world inhabited by Ulises is the stuff of horror, what is not expected at first glance is how emotionally driven SIDE A really is. I dare anyone to undertake a viewing of this without shedding a tear, there were enough to fill a glass from me.

It's a film that transcends time and genre and in doing so unravels itself to become a masterstroke of artistic brilliance (especially when accompanied by SIDE B). The intercutting of youthfulness and old age shares feeling against the inevitable, how does one feel when there body is closing down. As the lead passes through events to uncover what is happening on this fateful night, those around him interact in ways that feel natural yet alien. Questioning quite often what is reasoned and what is otherworldly and yet always grounded. Much of the film is a subtext to the inflicted self-harm of dementia and as such never gives too long a moment of happiness however there are moments of hope that keep the film moving forward.

Artigas is nothing short of magnetic. His frail yet flawed portrayal of Ulises gives a grounded sense of wrongdoing, a man with regret that has hope for redemption. The fragility of a man at the end of his life but a life that has allowed him to live fruitfully with love also comes harbouring darkness and regret that really reflect the sunken sadness in his eyes. The same pain shared but differed by Marini who too has shared this burden only make this couple more tragic.

Gonzalo Calzada should be applauded in creating a movie that never shies away from life, a film that delivers on the harsh reality of love, loss and family without sugar coating it beyond recognition. There are themes much further than dementia that will hit audiences very differently but never glorifies or over blows their impacts.

SIDE A is a beautifully shot, heartfelt movie that deserves to be on the top of everyone's watchlist. While not at heart a horror, it will haunt you for a very long time and as such is a bigger reflection on brilliant storytelling that all cinema goers must see.

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