Directed by: #CarlosSorin
Written by: #CarlosSorin
“A woman with terminal cancer decides to keep a notebook full of musings on life and love for her 4-year-old son to read after she dies.”
Notes for my Son is an Argentinian film on Netflix that is loosely based a true story. The real life event involves Heather McManamy, who died of breast cancer in 2015, leaving behind letters for her family, friends and more specifically her 4-year-old daughter Brianna. McManamy wrote many greeting cards to her daughter as well, labelled for different occasions and milestones that she will reach throughout her life. These were combined and published in a book by McManamy’s husband, titled ‘Cards for Brianna: A Mom’s Messages of Living, Laughing, and Loving as Time Is Running Out.’ If you feel tears hanging heavily at the edge of your eyes just by reading about the inspiration for Notes for my Son, then you’ll most likely find yourself almost drowning in a puddle of tears after watching.
I state that this film can easily trigger a flood of emotions, and it definitely can due to the subject of which the story follows, but unfortunately I was not that far connected with the story to individually feel that impact. A film’s structure primarily relies on the screenplay, however the writing here (by Carlos Sorin) doesn’t give the production the strong backbone that it requires. The timeline of events presented to viewers becomes disarranged rather quickly and this does no favours for holding one’s attention as understanding and fluidity is seemingly lost. All events soon become entangled — more accurately, estranged in the sight of the audience. Any source of characterisation is adrift too, which once again doesn’t add much value to the hold on attention and interest. I think the most prominent reason as to why I didn’t have a powerful emotional response to the film is due to the lack of a bond with the characters as a viewer. There is no space within the ambience surrounding the characters to place my empathy and friendship because there simply isn’t a solid ambience established to emotionally access.
Although the writing does not build characters with dialogue and stable backstory, the chemistry between cast members thankfully provides the audience with some connection to grasp onto. Most of the performances seen within the film are actually quite bland and somewhat stiff but when in close proximity and interacting with each other freely, a clear bubble of warmth envelopes the characters. These moments partially make up for the loss of characterisation in other scenes because of their natural intensity and open atmosphere.
As for the acting, talking separately from how it supports the writing, Valeria Bertuccelli’s great abilities shine through and enhance the viewing experience entirely. Playing a character that is constantly in pain, watching as her life shortens but is still enthusiastic about the time she has left must be incredibly draining — especially for Bertuccelli who obviously places her heart into the character. Despite her appearance as the character being pale and lying in discomfort, her upbeat approach to the situation is what casts light on the story; Bertuccelli herself casts light on the production in more or less the same context.
The cinematography, by Julián Apezteguia, of Notes for my Son is an element that I can praise highly. There is nothing extravagant about the techniques and visuals used, yet the beautiful simplicity is what brings the film together. Some aspects of the film do have a disorderly arrangement but the focused shots, and undeviating centre point of each, help to sow those astray pieces of the production closer together to create a heartwarming frame around them as a whole. The cinematography matches perfectly with the topic of the film; its concentrated detail runs wonderfully alongside the journey — the journey of a heartbreaking story with a comfortable frame of solace to soften the crash.
Notes for my Son can be generally a good watch for those who enjoy dramas with an uplifting undertone. The story may sound dark and gloomy but those descriptions are seated underneath a bundle of lessons to be learnt in regards to how you should approach life, even when faced with the worst of it, as well as scenes of love and affection which ultimately lead this film experience.