A Melancholic Journey to Transcendence
Locked outside his apartment, Gabriel stands with his arms outstretched toward the motion-sensor light above him in an almost worshipful stance. A locksmith unlocks his door, and as Gabriel drops his arms, the light goes out.
This image towards the beginning of This is Not a Comedy is compelling in its sacred atmosphere. It is foreshadowing of Gabriel’s journey–his hopeless grasping for transcendence.
Directed by Rodrigo Guardiola and Gabriel Nuncio, This is Not a Comedy (El Comediante is its Spanish title) follows the life of a struggling artist in Mexico City, Gabriel Nuncio (named after the actor/director himself). Gabriel is failing as a comedian; he can’t pay his bills. He’s writing a movie script about the first woman to land on Mars, but can’t interest anyone in its production.
His girlfriend Leyre (Cassandra Ciangherotti) believes he’s meant for grander things, and tries to persuade him of her beliefs in the supernatural. But it’s when his best friend Melisa (Adriana Paz) requests his sperm that he chases purpose in his potential to become a father.
The English title for the film is This is Not a Comedy, but the original title feels more fitting: El Comediante. It parallels Gabriel’s title for his own movie, La Astronauta (“The Astronaut,” or as the Netflix subtitles transcribe, “She Astronaut”).
For most of the film, Gabriel cannot shake his identity as “the comedian.” He pours his heart into his script about “the astronaut,” but both he and his script are expected to fit into certain niches: Comedic. Simple. To Gabriel–bland. This constant barrage of negative influence, though a little repetitive, is tragically relatable to the human experience.
The movie suffers from slow pacing and the introduction of too many insignificant characters. Yet it manages to introduce a lot of rich symbolism and to keep a focused eye on Gabriel’s heart-wrenching characterization throughout.
Nuncio gives a praiseworthy performance of this lost protagonist. Gabriel’s character is solidified as someone to pity from the establishing scene. While he may never fully express his emotions, viewers will feel intensely everything he suffers.
At the end of the film, Gabriel assumes the same stance he took when reaching his arms toward the motion sensor light outside his flat. The context is different, but it solidifies Gabriel as someone who is learning to transcend his limited world, and viewers get to be part of that intimate journey.
Read More: This is Not a Comedy Ending Explained
Verdict - 7/10