If At the End of the Tunnel is anything to go by, Argentina’s recent financial crisis still feeds into the themes of locally made films. It adds a further dimension to this claustrophobic, sweaty-palmed thriller.
From the fluid camerawork of the opening scenes you know you’re in for a well-crafted, suspenseful, twisty piece of cinema. So twisty, that it’s a balancing act just deciding how much of the plot to divulge in order to entice readers to see it without spoiling the fun for those that do.
Leonardo Sbaraglia plays Joaquin, a 40-ish guy in a wheelchair who lives alone in a sprawling house which he has let fall into disrepair.
Into his home enters Berta (Clara Lago) a rather pushy young woman with an eerily silent daughter, Betty (Uma Salduende), who has responded to an ad Joaquin has placed for a tenant.
Berta promptly moves in and starts poking around the house. We learn from her snooping that among the mess in the house and garden are signs that Joaquin used to have a wife and child, and we deduce that he lost them in the accident that has rendered him wheelchair bound.
Not that Berta is likely to find out anything by asking the man himself, who is extremely reclusive and spends most of his time in the basement, where he is obsessively spying on his next door neighbour via hidden cameras and microphones.
Just why he would be doing this takes a while to work out, just keep in mind that there’s a tunnel in the film’s title for a reason.
Berta tries hard to bring Joaquin back into the real world, while at the same time she has resigned herself to the fact that her daughter hasn’t spoken for two years. She’s been told that making an issue out of it will only make it worse.
So everyone’s keeping secrets and while it would be easy to become judgemental about the motives of the characters, remember this is the country that suffered a shocking financial crisis that has left it’s mark on the nation’s psyche.
Sbaraglia doesn’t get much of a chance to flash that trademark magic smile of his, but he’s no less magnetic in a physically demanding role as the flawed hero, and Lago expertly shifts gears as the layers of her character unfold.
On technical terms, the camerawork and editing are highly accomplished and we feel we are right there in the cramped environs of the house and below it.
This is a hugely entertaining, well-paced thriller, and the trip down this tunnel proves to be enjoyably labyrinthine.
At the End of the Tunnel is currently screening at the Cine Latino Film Festival
Richard Leathem @dickiegee