The Invisible Guest (2016) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): An intense defense preparation

Spanish film “The Invisible Guest”, which is currently available on Netflix in South Korea, is one of those typical mystery thriller flicks which constantly suggest to us that they are holding some cards held behind their back for surprising us. Naturally expecting to be surprised from the beginning, I observed its increasingly tricky narrative from the distance, and I was rather disappointed to see that there is nothing particularly new to impress any seasoned moviegoer like me despite a few effective surprises served along the plot.

The mystery presented at the beginning of the film feels rather simple but intriguing nonetheless. A prominent photographer named Laura Vidal (Bárbara Lennie) was found dead in a room of some snowy rural hotel, and her married lover Adrián Doria (Mario Casas), who is also incidentally a very successful business, is arrested once the police broke into the room and then found her lifeless body, but he still claims that he is innocent. According to him, someone unknown was in the room before eventually attacking him and then murdering Laura, but there is not any evidence to prove the presence of this mysterious figure at that time. Furthermore, it also seems that there is no possible way to escape the room before the police came into the room; the room has one only entrance, and its windows, which were already shut down and then locked by the hotel staff due to cold winter weather, remained untouched without any suspicious trace.

This is surely your average closed room mystery, and we wonder what really happened as watching how a middle-aged female lawyer recommended by Adrián’s lawyer questions him step by step. As a defense lawyer, she has never lost any case throughout her long career, and it looks like she decided to handle Adrián’s case mainly because it seemed pretty challenging to her in many aspects. Besides the mystery surrounding the hotel room, there has not been any plausible suspect besides Adrián from the beginning, and Adrián keeps insisting that he is really innocent despite that.

 However, right from entering Adrián’s posh apartment where he is waiting for her, the lawyer instantly makes it very, very, very clear to him that he must tell everything to her before it is too late. It turns out that the prosecution recently happens to get a surprise witness at the last minute, so Adrián and the lawyer must come to the court exactly three hours later although they still do not know who that witness really is, and the lawyer asks him again on whether he has not told everything yet.

This can be an interesting setup for a simple but tense two-hander, but then the movie gives us a series of long flashback scenes as Adrián reluctantly tells the lawyer about what happened between him and Laura. They were indeed lovers, but neither of them was particularly willing to leave their respective spouses just because their affair was pretty much like a care-free vacation away from their respective daily lives, and then something quite bad happened when they were returning from their latest rendezvous.    

I will not go into details here, but I guess I can tell you a bit about what happened next. While Adrián and Laura subsequently try to cover up their unfortunate incident as much as possible, the situation become more complicated due to more than one reason. There is some dude who happened to pass by the spot shortly after the incident, and there is also a middle-aged couple with whom Laura gets involved after Adrián left for hiding certain incriminating evidences somewhere. 

As Adrián tells more about what he and Laura did for saving their respective careers and reputations, his lawyer remains tactful and watchful as before while thoroughly examining what he said. From time to time, she shrewdly senses what he may be still hiding even at present, and it is often engaging to watch how these main characters frequently push and pull each other till the expected climax where all cards of theirs are on the table.

However, the screenplay by director/writer Oriol Paulo often loses its narrative pacing as relying too much on flashbacks and narrative reversals. As the movie continues to become so twisty, we become rather distant to its story and characters, and you may notice numerous plot holes and contrivances here and there even before the film arrives at its ending.

At least, the main cast members of the movie sell their materials fairly well under Paulo’s competent direction. I enjoyed the tense interactions between Mario Casas and Blanca Martínez, and I wish the movie just simply trusted its two main performers and went all the way along with them in more straightforward ways. In case of several supporting performers surrounding them, Bárbara Lennie, Francesc Orella, Blanca Martínez, José Coronado, and Ana Wagener are well-cast in their respective parts, and José Coronado and Ana Wagener ably handle their supporting characters as they become more substantial along the story.

By the way, the main reason why I watched and reviewed “The Invisible Guest” is pretty simple: there have actually been several foreign remakes during last several years, and one of them is a South Korean version which will be released in South Korea today. Considering what I saw from the original version, I have no idea how the South Korean version can possibly do more except bringing some local changes as required, but I will not grumble if it entertains me as much as the original version did.

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