Whenever the words “one-location survival film” are uttered, the first movie that comes to anybody’s mind is Cast Away. And yes, it’s one of the most popular survival films set around a singular location. But there are so many examples to choose from. Tom Hanks himself has done two films that fall into that category: The Terminal and Captain Phillips. Then there’s Trapped, The Lighthouse, Train to Busan, Buried, Die Hard, The Raid, The Shallows, Alien, The Shining, Evil Dead Rise, Under the Shadow, The Thing, and the list just goes on. So, it may seem that the medium of cinema has exhausted every possible way in which an isolated space can be utilized. However, in comes Nowhere, which sees a pregnant woman trying to stay alive in a shipping container that is drifting and drowning in the vast ocean. Is that enough to make it stand out among its peers? Well, let’s find out.
Albert Pintó’s Nowhere, which has been written by Ernest Riera, Miguel Ruz, Indiana Lista, Seanne Winslow, and Teresa Rosendoy, follows Nico and his pregnant wife, Mia, as they try to escape from a country that’s being torn apart by fascist forces. They are forced to cross the border in a shipping container that’s being taken to the docks via a truck. The first tragic blow strikes when the smugglers try to load the container that Mia and Nico are in with way too many people and then decide to divide the immigrants into two groups, thereby separating Mia and Nico from each other. They try to maintain contact through burner phones. But that’s when the second tragic blow strikes as the fascist forces deployed at a checkpoint figure out that the trucks are carrying people and they kill everyone in there. Mia manages to hide and, hence, survives the ordeal. After the container is loaded onto the cargo ship heading towards Ireland, a third tragic blow strikes, sending the metal box hurtling into the open waters. While the other containers that had fallen into the ocean drown almost instantly, Mia tries to keep her container afloat.
No point in guessing that Nowhere is about survival. But it’s not the “how” behind Mia’s efforts to stay afloat that’s as compelling as the reason why Mia wants to stay alive. Sure, it can be boiled down to Mia’s urge to reunite with Nico and make the family whole again during these tumultuous times. Upon closer inspection, though, it seems that Mia is atoning for her sins. She is ridden with guilt after making a colossal mistake in her past, which is something that continues to haunt her. With Noa (the baby), she has been given a second chance, and she doesn’t want to fumble the bag this time. Now, even though this particular brand of reasoning can seem inspiring, it does beg the question: Why is a woman’s will to survive being reduced to her ability to be a good mother? During the moments of retrospection, all that Mia gets to talk about is Nico and their elder daughter. She mentions Noa’s grandmother in passing, and that’s about it. Are those the only things that define her, outside of her survival skills? Despite having so many writers, the film just fails to give the central character any semblance of personality, thereby making the portrayal of resilience and grit feel quite stereotypical.
Yes, Nowhere wants to be a very realistic depiction of surviving on a metallic container in the middle of the ocean while fascist forces take over everything that’s synonymous with land. It’s true that director Albert Pintó, along with cinematographer Unax Mendia, editor Miguel Burgos, production designer Dídac Bono, the make-up teams, set designers, sound designers, VFX artists, SFX artists, CGI artists, and the stunt team, has done a great job of convincing us that Mia is indeed in the middle of the ocean with no chance of being rescued by a passing vessel. The way they play with the environment inside and outside the metal box is genuinely impressive. But the problem with focusing on realism instead of making us root for the character in question is that you begin to nitpick based on your understanding of reality. Mia and the baby are tossed around, injured, and nearly drowned so many times that they should’ve died at least a hundred times halfway through the film. Yet, we see Mia being presented as a badass hero with a cool tan, while the baby coos away like they are on vacation. That’s an indication of the film’s inconsistent tone, and this phenomenon happens so many times that I couldn’t take Mia’s journey seriously.
Nowhere rests entirely on the shoulders of Anna Castillo, and she is good. It’s just that the material she has to work with is not great. For starters, Mia is supposed to be a character who has been surviving this fascist regime for quite a few years. Yet, for some reason, she is so helpless and unaware of the environment she is in. Anna tries her best to make those moments believable, but it feels like the film is purposefully trying to dumb her down too much, so that her “phoenix rising from the ashes” moment hits hard. There’s a moment where Mia survives a massacre, and it’s not just stupid; it accidentally makes Mia look like an unsympathetic character. Yes, she sheds a few tears. However, her despair doesn’t last long enough to convey the fact that she is devastated by what she has witnessed. That’s where Anna’s acting chops come into play, and she gives Mia some much-needed gravitas. She does a birthing scene, which is gnarly, and it’s unfortunately chopped into bits by the editor. Everything after that is generic survival stuff, which will seem impressive if this is the first one location survival film you’re watching. What I mean to say is that Anna Castillo deserved a better script and better direction.
In conclusion, Nowhere is a pretty average film. Albert Pintó and his team of writers feel limited by the premise. At no point in this nearly 2-hour-long running time does it seem like they are trying to push the horizons of a sub-genre that has been explored from every angle. They appear to be too satisfied by the simple act of coming up with the idea of putting a pregnant woman in a metal container in the ocean. The fascism angle is interesting, but it’s discarded almost instantly to do something so cliche and predictable. It would’ve been interesting to spend at least 50 percent of the film on the road, avoiding the Neo-Fascists at every checkpoint from the container before hitting the sea. Well, Hunters (the Prime Video series) actually did a one-location episode where a Jewish family had to hide from the Nazis. So, you can check that out if you want. Also, feel free to check out Nowhere on Netflix, form your own opinion, and then share your thoughts on the film with us.