CONTRATIEMPO – The invisible guest

Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

Categorisation: Murder mystery film

Availability: Netflix – Spanish with subtitles

Plot: Spanish director and screenwriter, Oriol Paulo, brings Contratiempo to the screen. It’s another tale-with-a-twist thriller, that follows his earlier success with The Body in 2012. Both films have contributed significantly to box-office takings inside and outside Spain, and are now available on Netflix. Contratiempo tells the story of the young, successful businessman Adrian Doria who finds himself accused of the murder of his lover, fashion photographer Laura Vidal. Laura’s death has a complex backstory – a car accident involving Adrian and Laura, with consequences that dig them deeper and deeper into trouble. Adrian faces losing everything – his family and his business – so he employs Virginia Goldman, a lawyer with renowned witness preparation expertise, to help him construct a strong courtroom defence. The film then uses the limited hours they have together to explore various scenarios that will strengthen his case and challenge our perceptions about what we have seen. 

Cast: Contratiempo follows four main characters: Adrian played by Mario Casas, Laura played by Barbara Lennie, Virginia played by Ana Wegener, and Tomas played by Jose Coronado. While all four do well, it is Wegener and Coronado, the two older actors that really impress. One can’t help but admire Ana’s portrayal of Virginia’s steely intelligence and forceful presence as she drives the action in the second half of the film.

Filming and Setting: This is a fast moving film – a lapse in concentration and you will lose your way as scenes are replayed from different perspectives. It’s a clever plot, but you do have to pay attention. Paulo certainly keeps you engaged as he replays scenes and suddenly things are not as they seemed. His focus is clearly on creating tension, which does come at the expense of character development. But there is no question that it is gripping. The cinematography is stylish, showing the rich and famous in Barcelona, and then the beautiful wintery scenes in the country, with the now obligatory aerial views.

Personal Comments: Contratiempo is 106 minutes of drama-packed filmmaking. It is both interesting and satisfying to watch as the various scenarios play out, changing our views as they go. It’s a contemporary drama, and while I didn’t warm to any of the characters, and there are some stretches in credibility, if you favour a good mystery and are happy to follow the film’s twists and turns, you will probably like this one.   

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