Álvaro (Javier Gutiérrez) is a worn-out notary who harbours dreams of becoming a successful writer of high literature and is thoroughly tired of people constantly going on about his successful wife Amanda’s (María Leon) latest novel. “Writing about what you know” doesn’t yield great results when you’re a boring clerk, so Alvaro decides to cause conflict in his own life and the life of those around him in the hope that this will bring better results.
The Motive a.k.a. El Autor (‘The Author’) is a slow-moving, delicate yet thrilling character study. Beautifully portrayed by sociopath-on-demand Javier Gutiérrez (see The Occupant), we can see the cogs turning in Álvaro’s brain by the slightest pause or flicker of the eyes. Gutiérrez brings everything to this highly believable portrayal.
The script, based on Javier Cercas’ 1987 novella, is highly believable. But despite its strengths, this film will not to be everyone’s tastes. There isn’t a lot of “action”, but there is a lot of scheming. Nonetheless, a fantastic movie.
In the 1990s, Javier Muñoz (Javier Gutiérrez) was a world-eating advertising executive. But twenty years later, he is washed up, yesterday’s man, and a joke to all in the profession. With mounting debts and no prospects, and in spite of the pleas of his suffering wife (Ruth DÍaz), Javier desperately clings to the scraps of his former enchanted life: the dream apartment, the car. But you can only run for so long. For most people, facing the music is a wake-up call to adjust their lifestyle and their expectations; for Javier, it’s a call which wakes up something far more sinister, an obsession which will not die.
The film is beautifully acted throughout, and our leads are deeply convincing. Not only Gutiérrez and his on-screen wife played by Ruth DÍaz, but also the supposed dream couple Tomás (Mario Casas) and Lara (Bruna Cusí). Javier’s journey is front and centre, dramatic, and thoroughly believable. He manages to remain somewhat sympathetic, despite clearly sociopathic tendencies. It’s a testament to both the writing and the acting, not just of Gutiérrez but of his co-stars, that we retain a kind of complicit, twisted, semi-loyalty to Javier, and believe his character arc completely. The other characters’ journeys are no less important, and are equally convincing.
Where once he sold manufactured dreams to the masses, he now craves that dream himself, a truth beautifully referenced through the first and last scenes of the film. The film had a poetic elegance. It was hard-hitting without moralising, and unambiguous as to where right and wrong lie whilst still drawing us in to sympathise with the wrong.
A really wonderful movie, albeit with a somewhat sour ending which may not sit well with a Spielbergian audience. Not sure about the title “The Occupant”; the Spanish title Hogar “Home” fits much better.