F. Javier Gutiérrez’s atmospheric Spanish genre jumper – The Hollywood Reporter

In his director’s statement for The wait (La espera) F. Javier Gutiérrez describes his latest feature film as “a slow-burning, supernatural neo-Western set in 1970s Spain.” That’s certainly an apt summary, but it also highlights the film’s main problem: it tries to do too many Being things at once, and thereby being less than the sum of its parts.

The Spanish filmmaker’s 2008 debut, Before the fallHe attempted to combine a disaster film with a home invasion film, with similarly poor results. In both cases, Gutiérrez demonstrates a keen sense of style, but for all his genre leaps, he’s unable to create anything that feels truly original. The film will have its world premiere in Oldenburg, with further dates planned for Sitges and Fantastic Fest, and could offer fans of international thrillers some decent streaming fodder while finding a small cinema audience in Spain.

The wait

The conclusion

Solid technology looking for a more stable story.

Venue: Oldenburg Film Festival
Pour: Victor Clavijo, Ruth Díaz, Moisés Ruiz, Luis Callejo, Manuel Morón
Director, screenwriter: F. Javier Gutierrez

1 hour 38 minutes

During the rather slow first half hour The wait introduces us to Eladio (Victor Clavijo), a disheveled hunter who accepts the job of guarding the vast Andalusian estate of landowner Don Francisco (Manuel Morón). He brings his wife Marcia (Ruth Díaz) and his son Floren (Moisés Ruiz) with him and builds a new life for the family on an abandoned ranch that Don Francisco rents out to hunters so that they can hunt wild boars.

The “neo-Western” vibe is present from the start, as cinematographer Miguel Ángel Mora captures the sun-drenched Spanish landscapes in elegant wide-angle shots, then takes extreme close-ups to focus on Eladio and his son as they practice shooting together.

However, this mood does not last long. A freak accident leads to Floren’s death, driving his mother to suicide and sending his father into a state of rampant alcoholism, where he not only experiences strange visions but also uncovers all sorts of gory clues – slaughtered chickens, a goat’s head buried in dirt , a human toenail in a bowl of beef stew, clothes wrapped in barbed wire – this made him believe that this could all be the work of the devil.

Hence the “supernatural” portion that takes up much of the second half The wait, but also leaves the viewer in the dust. Gutiérrez never manages to establish an interesting main character – Eladio is a man of few words, but also of few thoughts or feelings other than sadness – and so we never get enough attention to his plight when all the horror stories happen.

At times it feels like the director is improvising and adding twists along the way, with a whole subplot full of backcountry voodoo that is never remotely believable or scary. He also doesn’t take advantage of the time setting – there’s a lot to be said about fascist-ruled Spain in the ’70s – which seems to serve only aesthetic purposes and allows for lots of neutral tones and washed-out vintage costumes.

Despite the narrative problems, the director reveals a certain mastery of style and tone, particularly in staging the film’s few set pieces. He favors still images and few cuts over fast-paced, hand-held jumbles – this is the “slow-burn” aspect – and gives the wordless action a clear grammar, making it much more readable than the action itself.

Gutiérrez has already made a foray into Hollywood and directed the ever-popular film Rings back in 2017. With a bit of luck, The waitwhich has the merit of being well made will allow him to tackle something more ambitious and hopefully more compelling there at some point in the future.

Brian Ashcraft

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