Understated stories where the plot is minimal, the characters are few but the message and heart of the film speaks volumes don't tend to get as much attention. A story like Nico is one that has probably happened to many people and to see it on screen portrayed in such a way is heart-breaking but it is a story that needs to be told.
Nico is a free-spirited geriatric nurse living in Berlin. She spends her free time drinking and partying with her best friend Rosa. One night, after attending a party in the park, Nico is victim to a brutal xenophobic attack, leaving her unconscious and later hospitalised. Once back on her feet she is determined to not be left in that position again so she takes up karate lessons. But as she becomes more involved with learning this new art, she distances herself from Rosa and even her clients notice she is not the same happy and cheerful as woman anymore.
Sara Fazilat, who also co-wrote the script and produced the film, is fantastic as Nico, expressing so much through her body movements and the few lines she has. The contrasts before and after the attack are subtle and therefore feel more powerful. Nico's whole demeanour changes as she slips slowly into her own need to get past her trauma the only way she thinks will work. Throughout this process, the tentative relationship between Nico and Ronny, a girl who works at a fairground, plays out sweetly and subtly but never blossoms into something deeper. It doesn't feel as if this possible romance is restrained but it's also not given enough time to feel as important as Nico's friendship with Rosa. The delicate nature of why Ronny shows initial interest is also revealed in a strange way that disrupts the flow the film's narrative. This is a shame as this could have been an emotional point in the story.
The friendship between Rosa and Nico is the central pillar of the film. Their ease with one another is a relationship that cements the realism that tracks throughout. But the disjointed ending with them reconciling with no issue or even full conversation seems odd, especially as the last time Nico saw Rosa, she had a door slammed in her face while crying her eyes out. It's as if there is a scene missing that could have shown their actual reconciliation, but instead it appears as if this happened off screen. Overall, the occasionally feeling of disjointedness felt in step with how Nico was feeling emotionally and the film steadies itself towards the end just like our main character.
Nico isn't a powerhouse story but is a quietly poignant story about healing after trauma, with Sara Fazilat a filmmaker and actress to watch.
Nico played at BFI Flare Film Festival 16-27 March