Perhaps unjustifiably compared to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti's film Nada + (Nothing More) has all the stylistic glamour that made the French production a multi-billion success. Shot predominantly in black and white with occasional subjects (a flower, a pen, a poster of Che Guevara, etc) painted in bright colors this unique Cuban project offers some captivating camera work and inspired acting. Where Amelie however was able to build upon a nicely shaped story and support it with style and perfectionism Nada + falls a bit short of being a truly original film.
In a tiny post office room somewhere in Havana Carla (Thais Valdez) wishes of helping other people achieve their dreams. Day after day she sorts letters and occasionally reads them to fight the boredom and humidity of Havana. Sometimes she even rewrites the letters and puts them back in the stock bin where the postman picks them up. Filled with poetry, passion, and zest for life Carla's letters are slowly beginning to transform the lives of postal customers in Havana.
Whilst striving to help people in Havana Carla also has a wish of her own-she is hoping to join her family in America by winning the "green-card" lottery. Unfortunately her name is never drawn and year after year she is left with nothing but hopes and an annoying neighbor that seems to be spending more time in Carla's flat than in her own. On a top of everything else the local postal authorities are sending a new supervisor to Carla's office to take care of a minor issue regarding mail and its distribution. Does Carla have anything to worry about?
As mentioned earlier there have been some comparisons made between Amelie and Juan Malberti's Nada + which in my opinion stem from the striking visual style the director has managed to achieve. The fast motion sequences, the overhead shots, the unstable camera following the main lead, are all factors that indeed call for a comparison between the two films. While Amelie however was more of a romantic story with a twist Nada + seems to be carrying a much more serious message that will resonate with audiences familiar with the current political environment in Cuba. I sense a hidden desire to caricature the bureaucratic structure of the Cuban society which director Malberti has managed just perfectly with his subtle depiction of the chaos in the local post office.
If there is anything that sets back Nada + it is the overly melodramatic tone of the letters which Carla rewrites. It seems like the director went a bit too far in focusing on Carla's writings and as a result the film feels as a mix of disjointed stories as opposed to a more coherent tale of a woman and her hopes in a city crumbled by heavy political censorship. From Carla's neighbor asking for a table spoon of ground coffee to the casual electric blackouts in the city of Havana the director's message screams loud and clear to me, perhaps a tad too loud.
On a positive side I loved the charming tone of Nada + and the sweet idealism that the casual encounter between Carla and her younger admirer brought to the screen. There is something undeniably attractive in the way people manage to find love in an environment that anything but calls for human affection. Add to the mix the breathtaking vistas of beautiful Havana and you have a film that might as well be considered the Cuban answer to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie.
How Does the Film Look?
Unfortunately I am anything but impressed by this DVD presentation of Nada +. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the print used for this DVD appears PAL sourced. While the image is generally stable there is a substantial amount of "ghosting" resulting from the lack of a proper transfer (the film was not transferred frame by frame). In addition, I noticed that occasionally some print damage will appear, most noticeably in the opening and closing scenes of the film, which I am disappointed with given the fact that this is a relatively recent film. In addition, the English subtitles are burnt-in which for me automatically negates any positives this DVD might have. On a bright side, contrast and color saturation appear rather well handled. Overall, an average presentation which should have been handled in a more mature manner.
How Does the DVD sound?
Offered with a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix Nada + has been downgraded to an average presentation that could have benefited tremendously from the inclusion of a 5.1 mix. I don't see any major faults with the 2.0 mix but I am disappointed that this charming film has not been complimented with a deserving audio option.
There is gallery of trailers for other internat8ional releases by First Run Features, Film In Context: short information regarding the country of Cuba, a Photo Gallery, and a Director's Biography.
Nada + is an extremely charming little film from Cuba which despite of the director's dubious remarks I found to be well-worth the time and effort. There is much in it that leads me to believe that Juan Malberti is a name one should keep an eye on. Not surprisingly Nada + has generated some momentum and the film was screened as part of the Directors Fortnight series at the Cannes Film Festival. Despite of the rather average DVD presentation seek this film out…you will find it to be quite a surprise. RECOMMENDED.