Oscar Martin’s Amigo, his feature directorial debut, will likely come to be known as Intouchables without the uplift. Both films center on a caretaker and a man who has been rendered paralyzed, and the struggles therein. But the comparison is reductive, as Amigo is quite clearly staking out a space for itself in the psychological thriller genre-space.
Following a car accident that kills his wife and leaves his best friend David (David Pareja) with nothing but a scratch, Javi (Javier Botet) is left bedridden. His body bears deep gashes, his lungs are filled with fluid that make talking painful and near impossible, his legs are inoperable. From scene one, we see the dynamic at play between the two survivors. David carries Javi into the house. They are fresh from the hospital, and David assures Javi that he will be there to care for him.
But something is not right. Javi seems to not want David’s help. David starts noticing things out of place. He starts suspecting Javi of messing with him, despite the fact that Javi can barely move of his own volition. The (potential) gaslighting continues until it reaches an aching fever pitch. And this is Amigo in a nutshell: a bitter game of power between two “best friends.”
The performances from Pareja and Botet are what charge this narrative. Although the longevity of the mind games is questionable—a quasi-dream sequence in the latter half of the film is a somewhat belabored stretch—the pair give the tension a sense of urgency while the film’s style remains mostly still. Martin’s camera places us in intimate moments that shed light onto his characters without the need for dialogue.
The film suffers most, I think, from its conclusion. The tension must resolve itself in some fashion, the struggle between the two must end, but how this plays out is less measured than the rest of the film. It is unceremonious to a fault, and the final shot stretches on far too long for what is required to get the pain of the moment across.
That being said, the buildup to that resolution is quite masterful in its construction. In a series of torturous scenes, the power dynamic settles into a disquieting groove. These scenes are bitter pills to swallow for what has been labeled a black comedy, but they are dramatically rich and thoroughly engrossing. Given that prior to this power shift the plotting had plateaued and was heading toward stagnation, the amplification of stakes could not have come at a better time.
Amigo may not have the perfect execution of its narrative, but Oscar Martin has an aesthetic sense that is extremely promising. Certain shots in the film are transfixing, and the deliberate pace of the editing leads to an exquisite sense of dread. He is certainly a filmmaker to watch in the genre sphere.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)