You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘NN’

A somber, quietly powerful drama from Peruvian director Hector Galvez.

Paul Vega, Antonieta Pari, Isabel Gaona, Lucho Caceres, Fiorella Diaz, Manuel Gold, Gonzalo Molina, Amiel Cayo, Andrew Pacheco.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4327978/

Quietly powerful, “NN” weighs the long-term consequences of violent political repression through the lens of those professionals tasked with exhuming and (hopefully) identifying torture/assassination victims found decades later in mass graves. Peruvian writer-director Hector Galvez’s sophomore narrative feature (following 2009’s acclaimed “Paraiso”) is a somber drama with limited theatrical prospects, particularly outside Latin America, but it should continue to accrue praise in further festival exposure and home-format sales.

Fidel (Paul Vega) is the senior staff member of a team whose job is to use forensic science and basic detective work to identify the corpses of people who “disappeared” during the Peruvian government’s campaign against insurrectionist groups in the 1980s and 1990s. (“NN” is code for “non nomine,” the label used for as-yet-unidentified remains.) It’s grim work, yet the group of a dozen or so is surprisingly jolly, even impudent at times, perhaps as a defense mechanism. Occasionally, however, the psychological toll on them leaks through.

At pic’s start Fidel & Co. are excavating a site in a remote mountain region that turns out to hold nine bodies. When taken back to the city for a lengthy investigative process, one of them (a male probably between ages 30 and 45 at time of death) appears to have been much more brutalized than the others. At this point they’re just skeletons, though some clothing remains intact; so, surprisingly, is a small photo of a young woman found in that man’s possession.

From these paltry remains Fidel and his co-workers must try to parse an individual identity, with the hopes of possibly delivering long-delayed justice to murderers — but even more importantly, bringing closure to families who’ve spent long years without knowing what happened to their loved ones. News of this latest find reaches Senora Graciela (Antonieta Pari), who desperately hopes one of the bodies might be her husband, Pedro, who was pulled off a bus by military police in 1988 and never heard from again. (When Fidel later meets her son, he learns she’s repeatedly pegged such hopes in the past, to no avail.) She is lonely, hobbled by grief and the interminable suspense over her mate’s unknown end.

Something about her touches the gentlemanly albeit by-the-book professional Fidel, even more than most such cases — perhaps because he, too, is largely alone. (While Galvez doesn’t spell it out, one eventually gleans this protagonist is probably divorced, and his children live far away.) It’s within his grasp to end this woman’s decades-long agony with some kind of resolution. But what if accumulated evidence doesn’t actually support the hope that her husband is Corpse No. 9?

This nuanced piece doesn’t spring any major melodramatic twists or point fingers at specific miscreants, preferring subtler means to suggest the corruption of past atrocities bleeding into increasingly latter-day political/judicial indifference toward the crimes of a generation ago. The focus is kept on the immediate humanity of the situation: Fidel’s wanting to do right by Graciela without bending the truth of his findings, and the difficult everyday work of his fellow investigators. “NN” has a tender heart beneath a surface of scrupulous restraint.

The latter quality is borne out in strong leading performances, spare use of Pauchi Sasaki’s effective score, and the sober, dark-hued (but not pretentious) visual presentation.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'NN'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, May 12, 2015. (In Rome, Palm Springs, Rotterdam, Goteborg, San Francisco, Seattle film festivals.) Running time: 89 MIN.

Production: (Peru-Colombia-France-Germany) A Piedra Alada Prods., Autentika Films, MPM and Septima Films production. (International sales: Habanero, Rio de Janeiro.) Produced by Enid Campos, Hector Galvez. Executive producer, Campos. Co-producers, Paulo de Carvalho, Gudula Meinzolt, Juliette Lepoutre, Marie-Pierre Macia, Jorge Andres Botero.

Crew: Directed, written by Hector Galvez. Camera (color, HD), Mario Bassino; editor, Eric Williams; music, Pauchi Sasaki; production designer, Eduardo Camino; costume designer, Jhovanna Villamil; sound, Isabel Torres; casting, Jose Luis Torres.

With: Paul Vega, Antonieta Pari, Isabel Gaona, Lucho Caceres, Fiorella Diaz, Manuel Gold, Gonzalo Molina, Amiel Cayo, Andrew Pacheco.

More Film

  • Chuck Lorre, Scott Stuber to Keynote

    Chuck Lorre, Scott Stuber to Keynote Variety Innovate Summit

    “The Big Bang Theory” co-creator and TV producer Chuck Lorre and the head of Netflix Films Scott Stuber will keynote Variety’s Innovate Summit presented by PwC on Dec. 5 in Los Angeles. Lorre will share the career experiences that lead to his co-creating and executive producing “The Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon” and “Mom.” Lorre’s extensive [...]

  • John Williams poses on the red

    'Star Wars' Composer John Williams Nabs 71st Grammy Nom 58 Years After His First

    Composer John Williams received two Grammy nominations, as announced yesterday, bringing his grand total to 71 nominations, with 24 wins to date. Williams was nominated in the composing and arranging field. His “Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite,” written for the new “Star Wars”-themed park at Disneyland, was nominated for best instrumental composition, while his arrangement of [...]

  • Rian Johnson'Knives Out' premiere, BFI London

    Rian Johnson on 'Knives Out,' 'Star Wars' and Toxic Fandom

    Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” is a wickedly funny, fiendishly clever, and surprisingly prescient murder mystery. It succeeds as both a brilliantly constructed puzzle-box of a whodunit, offering up a big reveal that’s extremely satisfying, and as a incisive comment on the class divisions and prejudice that are roiling America. If that sounds medicinal, fear not. [...]

  • Parasite

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins Best Film at Asia Pacific Screen Awards

    Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” which earlier this year won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, on Thursday added the Asia Pacific Screen Award for best film to its burgeoning trophy cabinet. “Parasite” producer Jang Young-hwan was on hand to accept the award at the end of a ritzy ceremony in Brisbane, Australia. The APSAs, [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 6

    British Directors Guild Issues Guidelines for Filming Nudity and Simulated Sex

    Directors UK, the professional guild for screen directors in Britain, has launched guidelines for directing nude and simulated sex scenes to prevent unprofessional conduct in film and TV. Described as the “first of their kind in the U.K.,” the new guidelines “are born of the need to set clear and shared professional expectations that apply [...]

  • People attend the opening ceremony of

    Korean Festival Selectors Resign Over Programming Independence Complaint

    Three programmers who have headed the Jeonju International Film Festival, South Korea’s second largest festival, resigned en masse on Tuesday. They say they are protesting the encroachment on their independence by the board of directors and city authorities. The three – Kim Young-jin, Lee Sang-yong and Jang Byeong-won – have led the Jeonju film festival [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content