The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Review - ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Review - ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA

One Night with Adela review
A Madrid street cleaner plans a night of vengeance.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Hugo Ruiz

Starring: Laura Galán, Jimmy Barnatán, Litus, Raudel Raúl, Rosalía Omil, Fernando Moraleda, Beatriz Morandeira, Gemma Nierga

One Night with Adela poster

Hitchcock famously described drama as "life with the dull bits cut out." The recent wave of movies shot in a single unbroken take (some genuine, some manipulated to appear so) have largely ignored this definition. Refusing to cut often means the dull bits are left intact, and a badly constructed single take movie will leave the viewer pointlessly watching a character walk from one point to another for much of its running time. Hitchcock of course made his own single take movie with Rope, but he constructed it in a manner that meant the camera was always in a place that moved the story along.

One Night with Adela review

Writer/director Hugo Ruiz's single take thriller One Night with Adela heavily features a talk radio host, but it ironically contains a lot of what might be considered the cinematic equivalent of dead air, moments, or more like minutes, where the viewer is left to twiddle their thumbs as the camera and protagonist move from one point to the next (these are often accompanied by some annoying Spanish rock tunes). It's practically a short that has been stretched to feature length by having its central character do a whole lot of walking and driving.

That central figure is our anti-heroine Adela (Laura Galán). The movie opens as she finishes her night shift cleaning the deserted streets of Madrid. We watch as she takes a large wad of money from an ATM before said cash is removed from her person by a potential rapist who decides to turn mugger instead when he finds the money on Adela's person. She's not about to let him get away with his crime however, and in minutes he's lying dead in an alleyway.

One Night with Adela review

If you think this is the inciting incident for the ensuing narrative, think again. Adela's killing of her attacker has practically no connection to what follows. For the next hour we're left to watch as Adela drives around the city, popping into a friends' home to buy some drugs before calling into a late night radio talk show. She tells the host (Spanish radio personality Gemma Nierga) that she plans to kill some people later that night, and it's clear that she feels someone has wronged her.

One Night with Adela hangs heavily on what amounts to little more than a filmmaking gimmick, but there's very little visual storytelling employed. Almost everything we learn about Adela is literally told to us through her interactions with the radio host. The first hour of the movie consists of Adela telling us what she plans to do that night, while for the closing 45 minutes she tells us why she has made such chilling plans. There is however one key visual reveal, and boy is it a doozy. I'm not going to spoil it for you but it's depraved enough to make the likes of Gaspar Noe and Lars von Trier jealous that they didn't conceive such an idea. Sadly, just as we think this is going to kick the film into gear, it all falls apart again as we're forced to listen to Adela rambling on about her troubles for the remainder of the film.

One Night with Adela review

Galán, who caught the attention of genre fans with her breakout turn in the dark thriller Piggy, certainly gives a committed performance here, one that is as athletic as it is artistic, given how much physical movement she's forced to do to pull off the unbroken take conceit. But Galán often seems to be lacking direction, particularly in the lengthy sequences in which she's simply walking or driving, and her performance too often lapses into a one-note snarl. At times she's not even on the screen, with Ruiz leaving us in an empty living room for several minutes as she showers offscreen, or in the cab of her garbage truck as she pops into a late night store to buy some cigarettes. Modern technology has given filmmakers the power to film single take movies in a way previous generations simply couldn't, but like the found footage fad, it's a technique that's rapidly growing stale through lack of innovation.

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