On Friday I attended a screening of Norberto Apenas Tarde (Norberto’s Deadline) at the opening night of the UWM Latin American Film Series. This Uruguayan dark comedy directed by Daniel Hendler told the story of Norberto (Fernando Amaral), a thirty-something who has been recently fired from his job, but has not told his wife. He ends up taking a mundane and depressing job in real estate, in which to get paid, he must find a renter for a shabby apartment, currently occupied by a hilariously adorable elderly couple. Norberto is shy, and his new boss suggests that he take a self affirmation course. Instead, Norberto decides to enroll in an acting class with a group of younger students. He finds himself more and more taken with acting and his new young classmates, and eventually drives away his wife and friends, while ultimately moving forward with his life (in perhaps a less than settling fashion).
The dark humor in this film I found to be reminiscent of that of Alexander Payne, who specializes in shlubbish antiheroes. Unlike a Payne film, however, which often follows the trajectory of “man whose life sucks in every possible way manages to somehow suck even more” (and I say that with a great history of Payne-love), I found Norberto’s plight to be a little more nuanced. For starters, although he and his wife are both clearly dissatisfied in their marriage, Norberto starts the film with a small but strong group of friends. Additionally, as he begins to follow his strange dream, he is not met with failure around every corner. He is adopted into the group of young acting students, and even finds some small amount of success in his amatuer production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. Although the ending of the film is not anything that I would ever want for myself, Norberto seems somehow satisfied, and prepared to enter a new and unknown chapter of his life. Ultimately, this is about a man who never grew up or matured. Throughout the events of this film, we see that instead of getting his act together and maturing, he severs ties with the grownups in his life and embraces his own immaturity. His character is clearly open to interpretation (and indeed my views of him varied widely from those of the person I saw the film with), but he is undeniably great fodder for dark comedy in this hilarious (while at times deeply depressing) film.