Executive produced by Alfonso Cuarón, The Year of the Nail marks an auspicious debut for his son, Jonás.
Executive produced by Alfonso Cuarón, Year of the Nail marks an auspicious debut for his son, Jonás. The project began as a year-long photographic assignment in which the fledgling filmmaker took spontaneous images of people in their everyday lives.
At the end of the project, Cuarón and his partner, Eireann Harper, completed an installation in which they mounted the thousands of images in one room, ordered in scenes composed of shots. Consistencies began to emerge and a natural narrative developed when it became obvious to Jonás that the most photographed subjects were his younger brother and Eireann. From this template emerged Molly and Diego, the two fictitious characters that form the kernel of the film’s self-reflexive narrative concerning an impossible romance.
Molly (Harper) is a 21-year-old American who travels to Mexico and ends up renting a room in the house owned by the family of 13-year-old Diego (the charismatic Diego Cataño). A close relationship immediately develops and Diego, who had previously been consumed by desire for his cousin, Emilia (Emilia Garcia), redirects his obsession.
Molly enjoys Diego’s flirtations, finding the attention and respect missing from her relationships with boyfriends back home in the US. The liaison continues to grow until Molly returns to New York. Led by his heart, Diego decides to run away to the Big Apple and attempt to turn her obvious tenderness for him into romantic affection.
Crafting his characters to correspond with the photographs of Eireann and his younger sibling, Cuarón further blurs the lines between fiction and reality both by casting Eireann as Molly and by insisting on using the real people who appear in the photographs rather than actors to record the written dialogue and voiceover narration.
The one exception to this is the character of Salvador, who is interpreted by the character actor Fernando Becerril. Salvador Elizondo, Jonás Cuarón’s grandfather who passed away during the making of the film, was the author of the novel Elsinore, and his writing exerted a major influence on the film, not least in its treatment of the impermanence of things and the passage of time.
As well as artfully poignantly depicting the difficult path from adolescence to adulthood, Year of the Nail also skilfully observes the experiences and sensations of being a foreigner (Molly in Mexico; Diego in New York) and the arbitrary boundaries that separate people.
Though clearly indebted in concept to Chris Marker’s 1962 film La Jetée, Year of the Nail should by no means be consigned to its shadow. Bolstered by the brilliant sound design of Martín Hernández, this is an equally bold and thrilling piece of filmmaking that redefines the possibilities of the medium.
A Chris Marker inspired film from the son of acclaimed Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón?
A coming-of-age love story, mediation on foreignness and a technical tour de force rolled into one.
The heralding of a major new talent.