In his director’s assertion for The Wait (La espera), F. Javier Gutiérrez describes his newest function as a “slow-burn supernatural neo-western set in Spain within the Nineteen Seventies.” That’s definitely an apt abstract, however one which additionally underscores the film’s predominant downside: It’s attempting to be too many issues without delay, and by doing so quantities to lower than the sum of its components.
The Spanish filmmaker’s debut from 2008, Earlier than the Fall, tried to mix a catastrophe flick with a home-invasion flick, yielding equally sketchy outcomes. In each instances, Gutiérrez showcases a eager sense of fashion however an incapability, regardless of all of the genre-jumping, to make one thing that feels actually authentic. World premiering at Oldenburg, with extra dates set for Sitges and Implausible Fest, the movie might present first rate streaming fodder for followers of worldwide thrillers whereas discovering a small theatrical viewers at dwelling in Spain.
The Backside Line
Strong method searching for a sturdier story.
In the course of the relatively languid opening half-hour, The Wait introduces us to Eladio (Victor Clavijo), a raveled hunter who takes a job guarding the large Andalusian property of landowner Don Francisco (Manuel Morón). He brings alongside his spouse, Marcia (Ruth Díaz), and son, Floren (Moisés Ruiz), organising a brand new life for the household on a desolate ranch that Don Francisco lends out to hunters to allow them to chase down wild boar.
The “neo-western” vibe is current from the beginning, with cinematographer Miguel Ángel Mora capturing the sunbaked Spanish landscapes in elegant wides, then pulling in for excessive close-ups to concentrate on Eladio and his son as they apply capturing collectively.
That vibe, nevertheless, doesn’t final lengthy. A freak accident leads to Floren’s demise, driving his mom to suicide and setting his father on a course of rampant alcoholism throughout which he not solely experiences unusual visions, however begins uncovering all kinds of gory clues — slaughtered chickens, a goat’s head buried within the dust, a human toenail in a bowl of beef stew, scraps of clothes wrapped in barbed wire — that lead him to imagine this will likely all be the satan’s work.
Thus the “supernatural” half, which takes over a lot of the second half of The Wait, but in addition leaves the viewer within the mud. Gutiérrez by no means manages to determine an fascinating predominant character — Eladio is a person of few phrases, but in addition of few ideas or emotions past grief — and so we’re by no means invested sufficient in his plight when all of the horror stuff begins occurring.
Generally it feels just like the director is improvising as he goes alongside, throwing in twists for the sake of it, with a complete subplot involving backcountry voodoo that’s by no means remotely credible or scary. He additionally fails to reap the benefits of the time setting — there’s quite a bit to say about fascist-ruled Spain within the 70s — which appears to be there merely for aesthetic functions, permitting for many impartial colour tones and washed-out classic costumes.
Regardless of the narrative snags, the director reveals a sure command of fashion and tone, particularly when staging the movie’s handful of set-pieces. Favoring fastened pictures and few cuts over fast-paced handheld confusion — that is the “slow-burn” side — he provides a transparent grammar to the wordless motion, making it rather more legible than the plot itself.
Gutiérrez has already made one foray into Hollywood, helming the universally panned Rings again in 2017. With a bit of luck, The Wait, which does have the benefit of being well-made, will permit him to tackle one thing extra formidable, and hopefully extra convincing, there in some unspecified time in the future sooner or later.