The Movie Waffler Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review - MARTINEZ | The Movie Waffler

Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review - MARTINEZ

Martinez review
An aging accountant begins to reevaluate his life.

Review by Blair MacBride

Directed by: Lorena Padilla

Starring: Francisco Reyes, Humberto Busto, Martha Claudia Moreno

Martinez poster

Nominated for the much coveted Audience Award at this year's festival, Martinez is a Spanish subtitled film, telling the tale of an aging Chilean office worker, leading a solitary existence in suburban Mexico. That is until a change of circumstance begins to alter his secluded frame of mind.

Written and directed by Lorena Padilla, this rather unknown, darkly comic feature is a definitive study of loneliness. Martinez (Francisco Reyes) is a bad-tempered, despondent old man. Living in a built up area filled with a community of people means absolutely nothing to the movie's surly lead. He looks out for numero uno, and outside of his mundane office job, he does what he wants, when he wants. Indeed, with never any family in the picture, he's completely free to do so.

Martinez review

Life begins to change for him, however, after two major events occur: first, he's forced into early retirement by his company, and before leaving, has to train up his plucky middle aged replacement Pablo (Humberto Busto). Second, his downstairs neighbour (who we believe to be around his age) is discovered dead several months after her demise. Bizarrely, after her flat is cleared and her things dumped outside, Martinez sieves through them to discover more about a woman he never knew. It is precisely by doing so that he ironically develops a taste for having more of a personality that isn't cast from cold hard stone, and attempts to better the man he has become in order to live a semi-positive remaining existence.

Padilla's first feature is certainly an odd one. Stricken with minimalist tendencies, Martinez has very little dialogue in its first half, really honing in on its main character's loneliness and isolation. What small amount of discourse is actually present equates to being short, snappy and fairly unyielding. That coupled with the film being a tediously slow burn, Padilla's style here - however deliberate in mimicking Martinez's approach to his life in playing his own tune to his own pace - is just a bit monotonous.

Martinez review

Reyes though - internationally known for playing Orlando in the Oscar winning A Fantastic Woman - is sublime at portraying the cantankerous Martinez. His character's dark, dry humour, obsessive behaviour and ultimate redemption arc are well delivered by the actor, and it's truly refreshing to see a unique performance outwith the regular casting circles of indie cinema.

One of an only three person cast, Reyes' co-stars also offer up some very enjoyable acting as Pablo (Busto) and Conchita (Martha Claudio Moreno). Both of these other co-worker characters play into the already stated study of loneliness. They have their own problems with walking a companionless path: bachelor Pablo trying to hold down a sustainable job in an effort to win over a disinterested woman; and Conchita, the office gossip, vying for any conversation, any banter or attention she can get from her coworkers as it's most likely the only chat she'll have in her day - it's all quite sad. Nevertheless, all three have some great synergy onscreen, and the film's funniest scenes by far come when they're all involved together.

Martinez review

Despite the positives, it all gets a little derailed by the film's structure and its methods of storytelling. Throughout the piece, the plot seems to be going in an expected direction yet in a peculiar fashion - Padilla, though, does it her own way and that is, in some way, to be admired. The issues begin to arise, however, when things get all a tad too bizarre due to slightly random occurrences coming out of nowhere, going against the rest of the narrative grain. Not to mention key plot developments being strangely double-backed on in the final third, with the film then casually moving on towards its end as if nothing ever happened.

In truth, Martinez is a peculiar one - a surprising nominee for sure for the GFF 24 Audience Award. On the one hand you have quite funny dark humour, an eclectic mix of chemistry in its triplet cast, and a decent enough conclusion to its story. However, on the other, it's hard to overlook the movie's slow nature and strangely positioned backtrack on the plot. Indeed, while the film eventually does get there in the end, it doesn't do it in the way that you'd either want nor that makes you come away satisfied.

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