Inside Love (Presentimientos): Film Review
Santiago Tabernero’s journey into the dreaming mind of a discontented woman features two of Spain’s higher-profile actors internationally, Marta Etura and Eduardo Noriega.
A well-appointed, ambitious adaptation of a novel by Spanish writer Clara Sanchez that moves elegantly between the dream and real worlds, Inside Love is a story about a young woman’s struggle to emerge from coma to be reunited with the ones she loves. Such a description suggests a film that’s going to be an intensely emotional roller coaster ride, so it’s disappointing that despite its virtues – its skillfulness, its central performances and its visuals amongst them – it’s pretty much lacking in emotional heft. An interesting idea that fails to deliver on its fascinating initial premise, Inside Love is nevertheless strong enough to deserve limited festival invites.
Julia (Marta Etura, Cell 211) and Felix (Eduardo Noriega, Blackthorn, also receiving his first scripting credit here) are a young married couple suffering from the pressure of having a small baby. Following an argument in the beach resort they’ve visited for a few days’ break from their routine, Julia crashes the car and emerges into a slightly rearranged world. Her wallet is stolen, and she seeks help from a sexy, commanding local night-club owner, Marcos (Alfonso Bassave).
Julia wanders lost and hopeless through this new, off-kilter landscape, sleeping in her car on a beach in the shadow of a lighthouse before setting off to find their apartment, now inhabited by a grotesquely heightened Brit couple (Sue Flack and Denis Rafter), straight out of something by the early Mike Leigh. But her body is in hospital. What the viewer is seeing, it quickly becomes clear, is Julia’s dreams as she lies in coma. The rest of the film will thus move back and forth between Felix’s present, Julia’s dreams, and flashbacks to the couple’s earlier, pre-baby life.
In the present, Felix struggles with the practicalities of being left holding the baby whilst trying to cope with the criticisms of his mother-in-law Luisa (Gloria Munoz, doubling as a superbly disagreeable policeman in Julia’s coma), obtaining a new, undesired insight into Julia’s private life -- and flirting with local woman Sandra (Irene Escolar), even as his wife is lying in a coma in a hospital.
The focus on the contents of a woman’s mind, and the symbolic significance of Julia’s dreams as a commentary on her own child-dominated existence, suggest that this is a feminist thriller. In her dreams, Julia undergoes several challenges to emerge, not unscathed but at least intact, on the other side, so it’s disappointing to see that the film’s final scenes are entirely conventional, undermining most of the intriguing uncertainties of what’s come earlier.
Tabernero has spoken of his respect for Stanley Kubrick, and Inside Love does have something in common with Eyes Wide Shut’s dreamy exploration of a troubled relationship. But it’s clumsily incorporated into the script; in the film’s most excruciatingly artificial exchange, Felix professes to Julia his love for Kubrick despite never at any other point mentioning his interest in movies.
Perhaps the main challenge of dream sequences is getting the dream/reality balance right: if it’s too dreamy, then it can become anything-goes pretentious, and if it’s too realistic, it might as well not be a dream at all. In general terms, the balance is about right through Julia’s supercharged, urgent dreams, but the clunking quasi-Freudian symbolism of it all starts to pall: is it really necessary to actually dress up Gloria Munoz as a cop to show how much Julia feels controlled by her mother?
The leading performances are attentive to nuance, with the tough-but-brittle Etura confirming her reputation as an actress capable of suggesting a tumultuous inner life through the barest of facial flickers. An only slightly reconstructed Spanish machista, Noriega’s Felix comes over as a frankly unpleasant charlatan, to the extent that viewers will tend to agree that Julia is better off without him – a fact which regrettably undermines much of the tension about how things will end.
The very title of Tabernero’s superb debut, Life and Color, suggests the attention he pays to visual detail. In the coma sequences, photographer Pablo Rosso does fine work in eking out the surrealism from the sun-drenched landscapes of Spanish tourist towns in season, whether it’s the cavernous, half-empty nightclubs or the unsettling hyper-real blandness of the supermarkets. The soundwork is likewise excellent, especially through the coma sequences, making a vital contribution to the generally eerie atmospherics.
Veteran Spanish director, Jaime Chavarri, director of the classic Bicycles are for Summer, acquits himself well in a rare on-screen performance as Julia’s doctor.
Production: Tornasol Films, Castafiore Films
Cast: Marta Etura, Eduardo Noriega, Alfonso Bassave, Gloria Munoz, Jack Taylor, Irene Escolar
Director: Santiago Tabernero
Screenwriter: Tabernero, Noriega, based on the novel by Clara Sanchez
Producers: Gerardo Herrero
Executive producers: Mariela Besuievsky, Javier Lopez Blanco
Director of photography: Pablo Rosso
Production designer: Laia Colet
Editor: Mapa Pastor
Music: Joan Valent, Russian Red
Sound: Eduardo Esquide, Jesus Rodriguez, Alvaro Silva, Alberto Herena
Sales: Latido Films
No rating, 97 minutes