Against Time is the literal translation of Contratiempo, the original name of this psychological thriller in Spanish, although the English translation is actually “setback” or “mishap;” in English, the film’s title was changed to The Invisible Guest. The film is written and helmed by Oriol Paulo, who was nominated for the Goya Award for Best New Director, and the Gaudí Award for Best Non-Catalan Language Film. It is the story of Adrián Doria, a successful businessman who won the European Award for Businessman of the Year, and who is considered the prime suspect in the killing of his lover, the photographer Laura Vidal. As a consequence, he lost his family, his reputation, his freedom, and needs his lawyer, Félix Leiva, to get him out of a murder rap. In this regard, the latter hires the veteran witness preparation expert, Virginia Goodman, to meet with Adrián to create a credible defense. In the course of their dialogue, several perspectives are floated to show different ways by which the story unfolded, in both crimes. It is revealed that the murder is tied up with an accident involving the couple and a young man named Daniel Garrido, that happened prior to the crime.
“Are you familiar with the concept of lateral thinking? It consists of changing the perspective from which one analyzes events.”
“I don’t know what you expect me to see.”
“The details, Mr. Doria. Focus on the details. They’ve always been in front of our eyes. But you have to analyze them from a different perspective. What if the answer to the enigma was never inside the room, but outside?”
The selection of this movie was made because of a few contrary reasons. Firstly, I am more a bookworm than a movie buff, and this was moving out of my comfort zone. Secondly, I wanted to review a European mystery movie, which would have been less likely seen and therefore not as likely to have already been taken up by other classmates. This film had for its main characters what viewers would think of as four people: Adrián Doria, Virginia Goodman, Laura Vidal, and Tomás Garrido. There is actually more than one major conflict in this tale: the primary one is the murder of the antihero’s lover, and entwined with it is the cover-up of an accident resulting in the death of a young man wherein the antihero and his mistress were involved.
Doria “is the name of an old and extremely wealthy Genoese family who played a major role in the history of the Republic of Genoa and in Italy, from the 12th century to the 16th century” (Wikipedia). It suits the anti-hero, whose wealth and influence enable him to evade the responsibility of his felony for a while. Furthermore, the name Doria shows up in the sinking of a ship, the SS Andrea Doria, which is named after the 16th century Genoese admiral (Wikipedia). This also correlates with what happens to the antihero in the course of this story; Adrián sinks, slowly but surely into the trap set by “Virginia”. Although a few parts of the movie seem contrived (The dripping blood from the car was implausible due to the angle of the compact sedan on the road – it would have been absorbed in the cushion instead – I would know, I’ve spilled enough drinks in my car, and it seems to me that a young man with a mechanic father still living with his parents would not own a luxury car with leather seats that repelled absorption. The coincidences: the father’s driving on the same road as the son a few minutes later on the same day, the lover’s husband and the accident victim working for the same bank.), these were relatively minor flaws.
“He was like one of those blotches, and I had to look at it like that to keep from going insane.”
The film challenges the mystery genre by the main venue not being in the courtroom, the police station, the streets, or the crime scene; it is mainly set in Adrián’s apartment, and told in sets of flashbacks of possible scenarios which may or may not have happened. Also, I enjoy lateral puzzles, and the premise of the film employs lateral thinking, which was in fact was mentioned by the protagonist. Additionally, the “detective” is unconventional – the revelations in the “investigation” as she was persuading the antihero to reveal the actual story were induced by her providing alternate scenarios. What I enjoyed in this film were its mystery conventions, wherein there was a twist, and little clues were dropped casually in the story and could easily be guessed by the astute observer, as well as the end, when I thought that the “detective” may have been made by the suspect. However, if I could change the part where Adrián remembers that Laura, the mistress, related the bit about the Garridos meeting in a theatre troupe, I would – that bit was too tiny to have been remembered by Adrián in the light of Laura’s other revelations regarding what happened to her. Reiterating that in the anti-hero’s recollections in the final minutes as well as in the exposition scene between windows was overkill.
Overall, the film was an engaging 106 minutes, particularly for someone who enjoys psychological conundrums. The beautiful setting and the cinematography were significant in adding to the atmosphere of the story. It is also recommended for those who are learning Spanish, as they can still easily follow the plot due to the visual nature of the flashbacks. As with the film, the last words belong to “Virginia Goodman”:
“Unless you pay attention and look for answers in the details of your life, you know what?”
“There’ll be no salvation without suffering, and you’re not smarter than I am.”