Director Jordi Cardena brings us a dark and deeply affecting portrait of the effects of domestic violence with La Por, a slow-burner that effectively conveys a seemingly normal suburban family’s terrible secret tearing them apart.
The first half-hour of this film is a superb display in subtlety and is particularly well-acted by Igor Szpakowski, who plays Manel. Manel, his little sister Coral (Alícia Falcó) and their mother live in constant fear of the violent patriarch of the family. Although his violence isn’t explicitly shown until the final portion of the film, it is cleverly demonstrated to the audience through silence, superb acting and tense dialogue. Following the family through the course of a particularly tense day, La Por’s realistic screenplay and sympathetic acting is somewhat undermined by a violent final act but nevertheless retains a sense of socio-political importance.
The opening 10 minutes of La Por feature no dialogue – a stylistic choice that only ramps up the tension. We see brother, sister and mother lying awake stock still as father gets ready to leave for work. From the outset it is obvious that this is no Hollywood-style normal household. From a very promising beginning La Por seems to slow a little in the middle and the ending is somehow both shocking and expected, and seems to destabilise all the intense work that came before.
The final sequence is seemingly separate from the rest of the narrative. It goes against everything the first hour of the film has worked so hard to show us – that terror and tension can be conveyed without the mind-numbing violence Hollywood has made us accustomed to. La Por’s ending is so shocking precisely because it comes out of the blue – following some carefully crafted dialogue and convincing acting the finale seems almost disappointingly expected. Cardena deals (mostly) maturely and powerfully with some shocking themes that are sadly all too common in our society.
This film is definitely worth watching for some gripping domestic drama and powerful performances from Szpakowski and Falcó. It’s hard-hitting and carries off exactly the sort of serious storyline that should be featured more in mainstream cinema.