Even though the central character is somewhat undefined, this film is a thorough creep-out, playing on our vulnerabilities while making the villain the most sympathetic person on-screen. Balaguero is one of the directors behind the [Rec] series, and knows how to unsettle his audience with atmospheric, skin-crawling sequences that are made especially visceral due to the realistic acting.
An impressive presence in the prison thriller Cell 211, the Bolivian political drama Even the Rain and as a drug kingpin in the Miami Vice movie, Spanish actor Tosar stars as Cesar, the likeable doorman at a creaky Madrid apartment block. But he secretly despises the residents, and is quietly destroying their lives, tormenting an elderly woman (Martinez) and her two beloved dogs, brutally threatening a young girl (Almeida Molina), and casting suspicion on mother-and-son cleaners (Fernandez and Morilla). But his biggest plan is for Clara (Etura), the sexy young woman in flat 5B. And while her boyfriend (San Juan) is away on business, he lurks in the shadows of her apartment plotting something unspeakable.
Director Balaguero keeps the film on low boil, refusing to explain everything in the plot while quietly twisting the moody tone. Every scene is a bundle of insinuation that suggests something truly nasty, and it's refreshing that Tosar never tries to make us understand what Cesar is up to: we see why everyone likes him, and also why they should be terrified of him. We only ever get a vague idea of his overall plan, but the things he does along the way are sinister enough to keep us nervous. As are hints that he may have done this before.
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The chosen meeting place for all these brief encounters: kilometro cero, the marker in Madrid's central plaza from which all highway distances in Spain are measured. It's a convenient meeting place, too convenient, in fact, because when so many strangers pick the same spot to meet, there are bound to be plenty of cases of mistaken identity and screwed-up assignations. One could easily argue that there are enough tangled plotlines here for several interesting films.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.