REVIEW: Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night (2021)

dir. Gonzalo Calzada.

Every once and a while a film comes along that transcends genre: and Nocturna (Side A) is just such a picture. One scene can capture the darkest nightmares and in the same frame deliver heart-wrenching sorrow, form following function and imagery working to strengthen a theme that touches all – genre fan or no – skilfully reaching into the many different realms of horror storytelling and pulling out the most compelling elements. The result is a truly fantastic piece of cinema.

Taking place in a single night and location, Nocturna (Side A) follows Ulysses (Pepe Soriano) on his last evening on earth as he is forced to face the grief and regret cultivated over his nearly hundred-year lifespan. Through artistically unique storytelling and stunning cinematography, director Calzada seamlessly captures the loneliness inherent to the final moments of life. Ulysses is visited by the ghosts of lost souls trapped in his apartment building as well having to confront the realization that his quickly deteriorating mind is a roadblock to asking forgiveness from those he has wronged. 

Soriano’s performance as Ulysses elevates the film to something beyond typical genre fare, the viewer witness to his confusion, angst, and fear through close-up shots of eyes that have seen too much. Seasoned with a gorgeous score and cleverly placed scares his woe is palpable, but there also remains a steady hope as he shuffles from room to room, trying to make sense of his failing memory and the eerie things that are taking place.

By turns an outstanding meditation on solitude and sadness, a portrait of end-of-life reflection and the devastation of realizing that we are all alone in the end, Nocturna (Side A) is a must see for anyone who has ever questioned the futility of life and the value of love.


Jerry Sampson

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