(Juanma Bajo Ulloa, Spain, 1993)
The Dead Mother is a striking film for many reasons. The performances are excellent and create the kind of grittily realistic characters you might find in a Mike Leigh film - only more brutal. Throwing themselves into their roles with such conviction it's easy to forget that they are acting. The direction is confident and and remarkably effective, managing to draw extreme emotions out of you with ease. There are some subtle but nice character touches like when the girlfriend (who always dresses in tarty underwear in a desperate attempt to keep her boyfriend's interest) suggests asking for a ransom for the girl and her boyfriend instead suggests that she goes whoring on the streets.
There's something relentless about their lifestyle and the film's portrayal of it that makes me think of Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer, or it's a bit like the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs stuck in a loop. Bajo Ulloa is interested in the schizophrenic personalities of his characters and the broken mirrors, high contrast paintings and cracks in walls all provide visual metaphors to support this. The entire package is first class, from the memorable early image of the killer holding a gun to the girl's head, to Bingen Mendizabal's moving soundtrack. The audience I saw it with sat mesmerised through all the credits and left in silence - testament to the impact of this terrific Spanish thriller. 8/10
Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer
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