A short that reminds us that getting back with your ex is usually a bad idea, Norteños — by directorial duo Grandmas — invites us to spend an afternoon in the company of ex-lovers Barry and Linda as they meet in a deserted social club near Linda’s apartment. She’s the kind of person who is still hurting from the last time she was taken advantage of; he’s a blue-suit-wearing softboi with a mullet who isn’t as innocent as he seems. They are tragically destined for each other.
The film is relentlessly silly, but it’s done in a deadpan style so it’s never really over the top. Each character delivers their lines in a bored, monotone voice, and everyone is unbearably polite. Barry in particular hides behind a thick accent, and the actor who plays him (Daniel Watson) kind of mumbles his lines into the void – which makes you wonder if you’re hearing him right when he admits to something unforgivable.
Linda (played by Chelsea O’Connor) seems significantly more well-adjusted, and you almost wish that she’d slap Barry with a restraining order. Regardless, she balances out his batsh*t craziness, and she does so with panache. There’s a third character in the film that I really like too, but I don’t want to talk about them. Forget I said that.
Described as a “microbudget exercise in writing characters and dialogue” by its creators, it’s always refreshing when a low budget film (Norteños was made for a grand total of £500) looks like a million bucks, and you can’t see the seams on this one. It’s proof that all you really need is a unique idea, a well-written script (or improv scenario), and actors who can bring the characters to life.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of films with huge budgets, name brand actors, made by a talented group of people, but a lot of the time it feels like these films are telling us a story we’ve been told too many times. At the end of the day, the biggest budget in the world is no match for an original idea and a distinct voice. Production values are important, though, which is presumably why half of this film’s budget was spent on renting a mechanical bull.
Though Norteños requires us to suspend our disbelief about the real life rules of crime and punishment, there’s an element of truth here. Everyone has reasons for wanting to get back with their ex, and it’s easy to break the rules we set for ourselves, even if we know we’re making mistakes we’ve made before.
People look past flaws that used to bother them all the time because they want to be with someone who can make them feel loved again. It’s human to crave the kind of comfort that comes with broken-in love, and trying to start something new can be just as painful as failing again with someone familiar. But sometimes you need to know when to walk away, lest you find yourself on the wrong end of a life sentence.