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Mind games and emotions come satisfyingly together in Alberto Lecchi’s Alone With You, a brooding, complicated and well-wrought thriller with tragic notes that traces five intense days in the life of an emotionally damaged woman. Lecchi is best known for his 2001 political romance Nuts for Love, in which Ariadna Gil also starred; Gil’s perplexing and complex performance in this gift of a role is subservient to the enjoyably manipulative script but trembles memorably with compelling ambiguities.
In Spain, which co-produced with Argentina, Alone has been a commercial flop, but this is the type of mainstream but thoughtful film that many would enjoy if they actually knew it existed. It will fall to festivals to decide whether Alone can find the friends it deserves.
We first see besuited company woman Maria (Gil) wearily firing an angry employee before going home and listening to a distorted voice message telling her that in five days she’s going to die. As she orders her cappuccinos and looks longingly at photos of children, it emerges that Maria is a divorced alcoholic who for some unexplained past misdeed is forbidden from seeing them: a clear thematic nod to the children of Argentina’s desaparecidos.
Maria is approached by and, in a frankly cheesy sex scene, sleeps with Ezequiel (Gonzalo Valenzuela), who seems to know a little too much about her. (No other relationship in the film matches this one for nuance.) The questions mount up: Ezequiel disappears, and now the voice is calling her from his phone. Charming, tousle-haired cop Fuster (Leonardo Sbaraglia) comes increasingly to the fore, shadowing Maria wherever she goes. The distorted voice keeps calling, and surprisingly Maria keeps on picking up even as it starts instructing to revisit the people and places that have brought her close to dying.
“Who gets to decide the ending?” Fuster mutters to Maria. “You, or your killer?” With its cerebral, games-playing questions, it’s inevitable that Alone will shoot for the kind of twist ending that throws the mind into playback mode as soon as the credits start to roll. But the film is more than substantial enough for the entire thing not to stand or fall on its final few seconds, and even those who can see it coming will find food for thought.
Under the slick, thriller-ish surface, issues are raised that are social (how women combine careers with motherhood), metaphysical (the destructive power of guilt) and emotional (not since Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage has a mother’s loss of her children driven a Spanish film narrative along so compellingly). It all makes for a heavy thematic burden, but Gil, making her first screen appearance in four years and best known outside Spain for her roles in Guillermo del Toro‘s Pan’s Labyrinth and Fernando Trueba’s Oscar-winning Belle Epoque, shoulders it well.
Maria’s reactions to what’s happening to her are necessarily ambivalent, and she’s oddly passive throughout, as well as mostly miserable. All of this makes it easier for the audience to admire Gil’s performance than to connect with it: but truly admirable it is. The characters surrounding her – all of whom only exist as foils – inevitably feel like ciphers, and the chance for a memorable, sexually charged showdown between the two great talents that are Gil and Sbaraglia is largely wasted.
The pacing sometimes feels wobbly. A couple of scenes and characters are surplus to requirements, with Sabrina Garciarena as Florencia, Maria’s faithful, uncomprehending secretary, in particular providing a plot point too many — a shame because she is Maria’s only friend and significantly the only other female character. Buenos Aires is recast by DP Federio Rivares in shadowy, noir-ish terms, with some eye-catching use of angles.
Venue: Cines Princesa, Madrid
Production companies: Aguirre Films, Moonlight Cinema
Cast: Ariadna Gil, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Antonio Birabent, Sabrina Garciarena, Gonzalo Valenzuela
Director Alberto Lecchi
Screenwriter: Leonardo Siciliano, Lecchi
Producers: Juan Nicolas Broens, Damian Becker, Jordi Mir Vidal
Executive producer: Gabriel Pastore
Director of photography: Federico Rivares
Production designer Clara Notari
costume designer: Laura Renau
Music: Carles Pedragosa
Editor: Natacha Valerga
No rating, 98 minutes
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