(director/writer: Oscar Martin; screenwriters: Javier Botet/David Pareja; cinematographer: Alberto Morago Munoz; editor: Emilio Gonzalez; music: Manu Conde; cast: David Pareja (David), Javier Botet (Javi), Esther Gimeno (Lourdes), Patricia Estremera (Eva), Zoe Berriatúa (Julian), Ana del Arco (Sofia), Luichi Macías (Diana), Alfonso Mendiguchía (Locutor Radio); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Elena Munoz; Dekanalog; 2019-Spain-in Spanish with English subtitles)

“An intriguing film even if a bit weird.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Shot in a week, with a script created on the fly, the chilling psychological thriller is about friendship as defined in the Bible as lasting through both good and bad times. It’s filmed with a dark humor and a disturbing macabre scenario, and is an intriguing film even if a bit weird. It’s pleasing as aesthetically directed and written by the feature film first-timer Oscar Martin (a veteran of short films and video games). The Spanish filmmaker is co-writer with the film’s stars, Javier Botet (noted monster performer) and David Pareja

It’s set in the sticks of Spain, in the 1980s, in a modest hillside country house, where David (David Pareja) lets his best friend since childhood, Javi (Javier Botet), live with him as he lovingly carries him into his house after the friend was treated at the hospital because of a car accident— where Javi’s wife is killed and a guilt-ridden David, who caused the accident, comes out unhurt. Meanwhile Javi is left semi-paralyzed in a wheel-chair, still in pain, scarred, hard-pressed to talk because his lungs are not functioning right, and is so helpless he needs to be cared for (fed and cleaned).

The only other caretaker, on occasional home visits, is the physiotherapist Eva (Patricia Estremera). Seemingly out of kindness for his friend, David spends less time with his married girlfriend Lourdes (Esther Gimeno) to be with his bedridden friend. He even brings around the prostitute Diana (Luichi Macías) to service him, which makes for a rather crude comical scene.

Despite David’s good intentions, we soon see their friendship is not as solid as we were led to believe, as things between them seem to have gone sour–with Javi feeling more like a captive than a patient, who is being treated the way David might want to be but not like he wants to be. As a result, there’s hard feelings growing between them. When David is not able to pick up his meds during a Christmas snowstorm, he becomes paranoid when he finds some items in the house are either missing or out of place. He thinks somehow a bedridden bedeviled Javi is trying to get revenge on him.

A bitterness between them now becomes apparent, as they seem locked into playing mind games and are in the midst of a strange unspoken power struggle.

The build-up of tension is weirdly done as droll black comedy laden with suspense. There’s a sense of unsolvable dramatics that make this cult pic that’s brilliantly perceived by the two co-stars and the director as being short-changed by an unsettled and stagnant conclusion. Though the minimalist film had an edge to it, its ending never topped it off with the kind of poignant meaning or clarity such a richly constructed challenging pic on the human condition deserved.

It played at the Sitges Film Festival of 2019.

REVIEWED ON 12/1/2022  GRADE: B+