“Año Uña” is an interesting new feature by first time feature filmmaker Jónas Cuarón, who seems to be at the forefront of the emerging Mexican filmmakers. Shot entirely in still photos, “Año Uña” tells the story of two very different but equally awkward people, New Yorker Molly and young Diego, an extremely h***y Mexican teen.
The story unfolds separately as Molly has spent a summer abroad in Mexico City so she can learn Spanish. While her friends are more interested in getting drunk and behaving badly, we quickly discover Molly has an almost Larry David quality to her as she questions her every move and motive both internally and externally. As Molly wanders about Mexico, we also switch over and meet young Diego who is uncomfortably fascinated by his young cousin’s suddenly budding physique. We get to know the characters a little bit at a time and then soon they end up sort of thrust together as Molly rents a room from Diego’s family. Diego falls in lust with the much older Molly and Molly knows it, but their relationship builds into a friendship and maybe more.
As I mentioned, the film is shot entirely with still photos and then voice over narration and a smart sound design create a much more interesting film than you would think. I’ll admit that when I read the film was all done in stills ala Chris Markers’ amazing “La Jetée,” (only longer at 82 minutes to Markers’ 28) I was less than enthused. However Cuarón is very clever in his filmmaking and he adds touches such as descriptions of smells and places that kind of set the mood in your mind and bring the images to life. The characters of Molly and Diego are so well drawn you really forget the film is done in stills. Yet there’s much more going on here than just an interesting style.
Cuarón shot over 8000 photos during a year of his life and the people represented in the film are his real relatives and friends. Occurrences in the film actually happened and Cuarón documented them as such and then strung them together later to create a narrative. Don’t get me wrong, “Año Uña” is very much an experimental film and I don’t think it’s for everyone. Yet I found it endlessly fascinating that so many elements could go into such a simple style to create an interesting, well-defined story of two very different people connecting…