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HomeentertainmentMovie News‘The Wait’ Review: A Genre-Jumping Exercise With More Style Than Substance

‘The Wait’ Review: A Genre-Jumping Exercise With More Style Than Substance

In his director’s statement for The Wait (La espera), F. Javier Gutiérrez describes his latest feature as a “slow-burn supernatural neo-western set in Spain in the 1970s.” That’s certainly an apt summary, but one that also underscores the movie’s main problem: It’s trying to be too many things at once, and by doing so amounts to less than the sum of its parts.

The Spanish filmmaker’s debut from 2008, Before the Fall, tried to combine a disaster flick with a home-invasion flick, yielding similarly sketchy results. In both cases, Gutiérrez showcases a keen sense of style but an inability, despite all the genre-jumping, to make something that feels truly original. World premiering at Oldenburg, with additional dates set for Sitges and Fantastic Fest, the film could provide decent streaming fodder for fans of international thrillers while finding a small theatrical audience at home in Spain.

The Wait

The Bottom Line Solid technique in search of a sturdier story.

Venue: Oldenburg Film Festival
Cast: Victor Clavijo, Ruth Díaz, Moisés Ruiz, Luis Callejo, Manuel Morón
Director, screenwriter: F. Javier Gutiérrez
1 hour 38 minutes

During the rather languid opening half-hour, The Wait introduces us to Eladio (Victor Clavijo), a disheveled hunter who takes a job guarding the massive Andalusian estate of landowner Don Francisco (Manuel Morón). He brings along his wife, Marcia (Ruth Díaz), and son, Floren (Moisés Ruiz), setting up a new life for the family on a desolate ranch that Don Francisco lends out to hunters so they can chase down wild boar.

The “neo-western” vibe is present from the start, with cinematographer Miguel Ángel Mora capturing the sunbaked Spanish landscapes in elegant wides, then pulling in for extreme close-ups to focus on Eladio and his son as they practice shooting together.

That vibe, however, doesn’t last long. A freak accident results in Floren’s death, driving his mother to suicide and setting his father on a course of rampant alcoholism during which he not only experiences strange visions, but begins uncovering all sorts of gory clues — slaughtered chickens, a goat’s head buried in the dirt, a human toenail in a bowl of beef stew, scraps of clothing wrapped in barbed wire — that lead him to believe this may all be the devil’s work.  

Thus the “supernatural” part, which takes over much of the second half of The Wait, but also leaves the viewer in the dust. Gutiérrez never manages to establish an interesting main character — Eladio is a man of few words, but also of few thoughts or feelings beyond grief — and so we’re never invested enough in his plight when all the horror stuff starts happening.

Sometimes it feels like the director is improvising as he goes along, throwing in twists for the sake of it, with a whole subplot involving backcountry voodoo that’s never remotely credible or scary. He also fails to take advantage of the time setting — there’s a lot to say about fascist-ruled Spain in the 70s — which seems to be there merely for aesthetic purposes, allowing for lots of neutral color tones and washed-out vintage costumes.

Despite the narrative snags, the director reveals a certain command of style and tone, especially when staging the film’s handful of set-pieces. Favoring fixed shots and few cuts over fast-paced handheld confusion — this is the “slow-burn” aspect — he gives a clear grammar to the wordless action, making it much more legible than the plot itself.

Gutiérrez has already made one foray into Hollywood, helming the universally panned Rings back in 2017. With any luck, The Wait, which does have the merit of being well-made, will allow him to take on something more ambitious, and hopefully more convincing, there at some point in the future.

Full credits

Venue: Oldenburg Film Festival
Production companies: Canal Sur Televisión, Junta de Andalucía, Nostromo Pictures, Spal Films S.L., Unfiled Films
Cast: Victor Clavijo, Ruth Díaz, Moisés Ruiz, Luis Callejo, Manuel Morón
Director, screenwriter: F. Javier Gutiérrez
Producers: Adrián Guerra, F. Javier Gutiérrez, Antonio P. Pérez
Cinematographer: Miguel Ángel Mora
Composer: Zeltia Montes
Sales: Film Factory Entertainment
In Spanish
1 hour 38 minutes

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