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Home > ‘Nowhere’ (2023): A Review

‘Nowhere’ (2023): A Review

“Nowhere” is a survival thriller that’s anything but thought-provoking and isn’t for skeptics. Anna Castillo as Mia in Nowhere (2023).

An Incredible Survival Thriller

Nowhere (2023) is a cinematic amusement park ride of a survival thriller set in the future, dystopian Spain, that progressively tests the suspension of disbelief of its viewers as it progressively tests its heavily pregnant heroine to a fantastic degree.

In Nowhere, Spain, like most of Europe, is critically lacking resources. The solution to their draconian, totalitarian regime is the Not Enough for All Plan: the extermination of all children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Mia (Anna Castillo) and her husband Nico (Tamar Novas) have already lost a daughter, Uma (Emma Sánchez), to the government, and Mia is conspicuously pregnant. The couple make a deal to be smuggled in a shipping container to Ireland, one of the last sustainable democracies in Europe. Nico is the only man in the container, and before the truck hauling it even arrives at the transport ship, it stops, and Nico is taken away at gunpoint to another container. Soon, Mia’s separation from Nico will be the least of her problems. She’ll run the gauntlet through a murderous military checkpoint and a disastrous storm that washes her shipping container overboard. She’ll drift alone inside with just a few goods waiting to bear her child.      

A Dystopian Survival Thriller

Nowhere is a unique dystopian survival thriller. It’s not about survival altering individuals and society. In this plot-driven story, Mia’s character never changes. It’s not a cautionary tale, like some, a warning to change course to alter some disastrous destiny like the dire extremities of class warfare, technology, disease, or climate change. The situation that prompts the Not Enough For All Plan is too vague for that. Nowhere is just an audacious thrill ride. Over one hundred years ago, an anonymous theater critic offered this advice to dramatic writers: “In the first act, get your principal character up a tree; in the second act, throw stones at him; in the third, get him down gracefully.” Nowhere essentially follows this guidance to a fault. In the first act, the writing team of Indiana Lista, Ernest Riera, Miguel Ruz, Seanne Winslow, and Teresa de Rosendo get heavily pregnant Mia into a shipping container, isolate her, and set her adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. In the second act, they set their plot to fire, escalating obstacles on full auto from a catastrophic storm to increasingly dire emergencies that overtax the viewers’ suspension of disbelief as they wildly try Mia.

Nowhere’s paramount caveat is that this is not a movie for skeptics. An article could be written on how it defies the laws of human physiology and physics. A steel shipping container may float for days or even weeks, but can a schoolteacher MacGyver a survival inside of one on an open ocean with only a cargo of Tupperware, earbuds, flat-screen TVs, vodka, and hoodies? In this movie, belief magically floats on engaging with the unrelenting action and the human interest story of a pregnant mother’s struggle to hang onto life, not only for herself but for her unborn child. Entire genres, like zombie films, depend on the suspension of disbelief. Is a reanimated corpse more credible than a fantastically resourceful schoolteacher?    

Anna Castillo’s Mia Is the Heart and Spine of Nowhere

That school teacher, Mia, is portrayed by Anna Castillo. Her naturalistic performance is essential to the credibility of Nowhere‘s incredible plot and is its heart and spine. It would be cynical to criticize Mia’s sentimentality or ingenuity. When Nico says, “I love you more than yesterday,” she completes the lyric of the sixties’ Spiral Starecase hit song as if the words come from her heart: “But not as much as tomorrow.”

She caresses his face, realizing her sentiment. When her cell phone, her only mode of communication with Nico, is broken, she’s as disappointed as anyone would be, but it’s her resourcefulness when she encounters more and more critical situations time and time again that makes her a sympathetic heroine. Some of her trials are moving. Others might provoke more than a wince from the viewer, but neither Castillo’s performance nor Albert Pintó’s direction depicts Mia’s extremities to the extreme. Of course, a woman on the brink of delivering a baby is a vulnerable character and can be pathetic, but it’s Mia’s fortitude despite this that’s remarkable. There are over a score of competent actors in Nowhere’s cast, but this is essentially a one-woman show. The other characters are simply disposable parts of Mia’s ordeal. Tony Corvillo plays Gil, an unsympathetic and murderous military apparatchik, with as much detail as his character allows, but Gil is little more than an antagonistic caricature. A massacre of women and children in Mia’s world is less poignant than the loss of her cell phone. Tavar Novas is affecting as Nico, but even his character is expendable. 

Director Albert Pintó Visualizes the World of Nowhere

Director Albert Pintó realistically visualizes the world of Nowhere and makes it credible and, at its most effective, moving. Immediately, his camera expertly follows Mia and Nico through the shipping container yard and into the shipping container with the audience in tow. A truck hauls them through the streets of a dystopian Spanish city where grubby women and children are in cages guarded by soldiers who also club men on the sidewalks. Pintó shows servicemen mowing down women and children and swilling their blood from the floor with a water hose. One of the final shots of that vicious scene is of a toddler’s blood-spattered, yellow rubber ducky that evokes pathetic Vietnam battle scene photographs of relinquished toys. 

Pintó deserves kudos for taking on the notorious challenges of an aquatic shoot that required Nowhere’s producers to build the first indoor water tank in Spain. Modern productions that have involved a significant amount of water tend to be problematic and, at worst, even on the brink of disaster. But Pintó didn’t have to cope with underwater sets or a practically full-scale sinkable ocean liner as James Cameron did to shoot The Abyss (1989) or Titanic (1997). Nonetheless, making a film that realistically depicts a character in a sinking shipping container on the open ocean is a challenging achievement. Pintó’s shots in the shipping container belie their setting in what is basically a box and tell Mia’s story with visual fluency. The container is a relatively tiny flotsam tossed on the rough, boundless sea in one impressive shot that looks like a romantic and surreal seascape.            

Check Disbelief at the Door, Or This Film Goes Nowhere

Nowhere is a roller coaster of a survival thriller out of a murderously dystopian Spain. It’s anything but thought-provoking and isn’t for skeptics. Perhaps the only thing this fantastically relentless film and its indefatigable heroine, Mia, can’t successfully survive is questioning her survivability. Anna Castillo’s Mia is the heart and spine of Nowhere, and it requires unquestioning engagement with her and her trials. Viewers are advised to check their disbelief at the door, or they’ll get nowhere with this wild cinematic ride.

Nowhere was produced by Netflix Studios and Rock & Ruz. It was released on September 29, 2023. It’s available to stream on Netflix, now. It is one of the most-watched non-English movies of all time on the platform.    

Nowhere (2023) Official Netflix Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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James Keith La Croix has worked in and around the entertainment industry for years. He majored in film studies at Wayne State University and in Live Action Video at the College for Creative Studies. He wrote reviews, interviews, and features on cinema for the Detroit’s Metro Times.

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Elke Simmons' writing portfolio includes contributions to The Laredo Morning Times, Walt Disney World Eyes and Ears, Extinction Rebellion (XR) News/Blog, and Dead Talk News.