Fantastic Fest: PURGATORY shows that babysitting can be hell




Purgatory (dir. Pau Teixidor)
Moving on after losing a child must be the most difficult process in life to undertake. When we first meet Marta (Oona Chaplin) and her husband Luis (Andrés Gertrúdix) in this Spanish film they are both trying to start piecing their lives back together. They have recently lost their son and have moved to a new apartment building to start over. Hoping that the new environment will not be as triggering as the house they shared with their deceased son they both do their best to cope in the best way they can. Just as they are settling in for their first night at the new place Luis is called to work an overnight shift at work unexpectedly. Soon after that a new neighbor imposes and practically forces Marta to babysit her preteen son Daniel (Sergi Méndez). The circumstances of the child hoisting are a bit shady and Marta begins to wonder if all is as it seems with the building.
Chaplin’s performance as the barely stable Marta is the single strongest element in the film. She is frustrated with life as a whole when Daniel is inflicted on her and the fact that the kid is a little piece of shit only makes her night feel that much worse. But Marta keeps it relatable and always conveys where she is emotionally as Daniel takes her for a ride.
The writing and pacing are a little uneven throughout the film, which is unfortunate given the film is trying to have a slow build to an intentionally ambiguous climax. These issues are not unbearable, but they are notable. I will give the film credit in that it does not take any cheap shots at the audience. There are ample opportunities for jump scares within the quieter moments, and PURGATORY avoids these easy grabs for scares in lieu of maintaining atmosphere.
In the end the film successfully balances an open ended conclusion with giving gravity to Marta’s emotional state. It fit in quite nicely with the line-up at this year’s Fantastic Fest and will certainly make some people’s best-of-fest lists, though it will likely not be on mine.

Deirdre Crimmins

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Deirdre (Dede) lives in Chicago (via Boston and Cleveland) with two black cats. She writes for Film Thrills, High Def Digest, The Brattle Theater, Rue Morgue Magazine, Birth.Movies.Death., and anyone else who will let her drone on about genre film. She wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero and is always hopeful that Hollywood will get its head out of its ass.

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