'Time Share': Film Review | Sundance 2018

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Visually stylish but dramatically inert.

Sebastian Hofmann's dark psychological thriller concerns two men slowly becoming unhinged at a lavish resort.

You'll think twice before agreeing to a time-share pitch after seeing Sebastian Hofmann's unsettling sophomore feature receiving its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Taking place in a lavish resort whose owners consistently describe as "paradise," Time Share proves a cinematically arresting psychological thriller that succeeds in keeping viewers on edge even if it doesn't give them much to mull over afterwards.

After a disturbing prologue featuring one of the main characters, the story proper begins five years later, with Pedro (Luis Gerardo Mendez), his spouse Eva (Cassandra Ciangherotti) and their young son arriving at the resort. Unfortunately, the family's vacation doesn't get off to a good start. Just after setting into their new accommodations, there's a knock at the door. Several policemen stand outside, escorting another family who claim that they're supposed to be staying in that same bungalow.

It turns out that the resort's new American owner, devoted to referring to its wide-ranging properties as "The Everfields family," has double-booked the bungalow during a massive price-slashing promotion. This leaves Pedro no choice but to share it with the other family, a large brood including their paterfamilias, the gregarious Abel (Andres Almeida), to whom Pedro takes an instant dislike.

Among the resort's employees is the deeply troubled Andres (Miguel Rodarte), whose dead-end career trajectory has landed him in the subterranean bowels of the laundry department, and his wife Gloria (Montserrat Maranon), who's being groomed for saleswoman stardom by Everfield's creepily manipulative sales manager (RJ Mitte, in a striking departure from his Walter White Jr. character on Breaking Bad).

Parallel storylines depict the psychological disintegration of the two men. Pedro becomes increasingly worried that he's losing his family's affections, his emotional discomfort eventually becoming physical as well when his nose is broken in a tennis court accident. Andres suspects the same of his wife who is flourishing in her new position even as he sinks into depression, unresponsive to all his medications.

The director/co-screenwriter expertly conjures up an atmosphere of quiet dread suffused with such touches of surreal humor as a pink flamingo's unexplained appearances. Visually stunning, Matias Penachino's cinematography alternates between dark neon tones and gorgeous, sun-drenched vistas worthy of a sales brochure. Giorgio Giampa's music proves equally versatile, its initial playfulness segueing over time into ominous tones.

But for all its technical polish and the compellingly intense performances of its lead performers, Time Share never achieves dramatic urgency. The characters feel more like plot devices than three-dimensional figures, the storylines don't converge in sufficiently resonant fashion and the pacing is sluggish to the point of tedium. The film seems to be constantly straining for a deep significance that it never quite pulls off.

Hofmann, whose debut feature, Halley, garnered much praise on the festival circuit, is definitely a talent to watch. But he needs to develop as much mastery of storytelling as cinematic stylization before he's likely to make a feature that will truly connect with audiences.

Production companies: Piano, Circe Films
Cast: Luis Gerardo Mendez, Miguel Rodarte, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Andres Almeida, Monserrat Maranon, RJ Mitte
Director: Sebastian Hofmann
Screenwriters: Julio Chavezmontes, Sebastian Hofmann
Producer: Julio Chavezmonte
Executive producer: Pablo Zimb
Director of photography: Matias Penachino
Production designer: Clandro Ramirez Castelli
Composer: Giorgio Giampa
Costume designer: Brenda Gomez
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (World Dramatic Competition)

96 minutes

 

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