'Virus of Fear' ('El Virus de la Por'): Film Review

VIRUS OF FEAR El virus de la por Still - H 2016
Courtesy of ELS Films de la Rambla S.A.

VIRUS OF FEAR El virus de la por Still - H 2016

A stagey examination of a teacher's worst nightmare.

A coach of youth swimming classes is accused of inappropriate physical contact.

A study of a universally recognizable fear hindered by an unsuccessful ticking-clock conceit and hit-and-miss acting, Ventura Pons' Virus of Fear follows a swimming coach through the day on which he's accused of molesting a young student. Drab photography and production design further one's impression that a smartly designed stage production would be much more satisfying than this sincere but clunky effort. The reputation of Pons, a veteran Catalan filmmaker who made his debut in the '70s, may help somewhat at the art house, as will button-pushing subject matter, but its theatrical run should be quite short.

Jordi (Ruben de Eguia) is much beloved by students at his community pool, and adults acknowledge his gift for putting kids at ease. But soon after the day's morning class is dismissed, his boss Anna (Roser Batalla) confronts him with concern. "What happened with Alex?" she demands.

The vagueness of the ensuing confrontation — "Some people have complained," Anna keeps saying, but she takes forever to reveal what's alleged — is made muddier by the movie's structure: Pons often leaps back in time for reasons that are hard to guess, filling in chunks of narrative (and too often replaying the same interactions) in ways that do little to stoke dramatic coals or undermine our initial assumptions.

Though the pic emphasizes Jordi's sexuality in a few ways — he makes lewd, boasting jokes with a co-worker; he's wearing a tiny Speedo (or occasionally nothing) for much of the film — few viewers will be inclined to believe he would make advances on a child. The question of how parents should respond, when rumors spread that he has kissed a boy, is another matter: But while early one-on-one scenes exhibit some nuance, the film loses credibility when it imagines a crowd outside the swim center all but waving pitchforks at the swim instructors cowering inside.

Production companies: Els Films de la Rambla S.A.,Televisió de Catalunya (TV3)
Cast: Ruben de Eguia, Roser Batalla, Albert Auselle, Santi Ricart
Director-producer: Ventura Pons
Screenwriter: Josep Maria Miro
Executive producer: Ventura Pons
Director of photography: Andalu Vila-SanJuan
Production designer: Bello Torras
Editor: Marc Farreras

In Catalan

Not rated, 72 minutes