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LIFE BEGINS AFTER A PLANNED DEATH

Nora's Will (Not rated, probably PG-13) (92 min.) - Mariana Chenillo's gently tragic, irreverently comical film is a charmer, which is odd since Nora's Will opens with an old woman's preparation for suicide. Nora has tried many times before, so her flinty ex-husband Jose (Fernando Lujan) isn't surprised. What Nora does to him after her death is another story.

The deceased left meticulous directions for a wake banquet, even setting the table before dying. Refrigerator supplies are stocked and labeled, and relatives arrive under false pretenses. Jose maintains his poker-faced resignation until Jewish faith intervenes, through a strictly orthodox rabbi (Max Kerlow) hired by her son's father-in-law.

Nora could have timed her demise better. Passover weekend means any funeral will be delayed for several days. Her corpse lay in her bedroom, preserved with ice, with a shy shomer (Enrique Arreola) reciting prayers all day. The rabbi is hesitant to approve Nora's burial; suicide victims aren't allowed in the cemetery. Jose reacts in typical fashion: installing a crucifix flower arrangement in Nora's home and ordering a blatantly nonkosher pizza, which he gladly offers the repulsed rabbi and shomer.

Jose and Nora's son, Ruben (Ari Brickman), a converted Jew who hasn't forgiven his father for divorcing his mother - yet moving only across the street - is equally distressed.

Gradually, Jose and the audience realize that Nora planned this familial and cultural collision. Her will isn't a legal document; rather, it's a desire for her favorite people to enjoy life more than she did, which becomes her testament. Chenillo inserts flashbacks to Jose and Nora's troubled marriage, and we understand why she's dead and why he should grieve.

Nora's Will isn't a downer, despite the circumstances. Lujan is a magnetic actor, carrying long, wordless stretches alone or playing passive-aggressive games with Ruben and the rabbi. Chenillo squeezes in a few broad jokes - Jose's grandchildren playing in a coffin, and finding grandma's sex toy - but mostly her film is a modestly underplayed comedy of antisocial errors.

Opens Friday at Citrus Park 20 in Tampa. Shown with English subtitles. B+

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