Director – Ventura Durall – 2020 – Spain – Cert. 18 tbc – 111m
When two former lovers run into one another, the fallout theatens to derail both their marriages – out in cinemas, virtual cinemas and VoD from Friday, July 30th
This starts off with webcam porn actress Rita (Verónica Echegui) giving a come on to an unseen viewer in American English, which is pretty odd because everything else is in Spanish. Surely not a cheap shot by the producers to sell the film to the English-speaking world? Anyone who thinks they’re in for an internet exposé along the lines of Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, 2018) is however in for a disappointment. Apart from a line later on where Rita is asked her job and replies, “I used to be a porn actress”, the whole sequence is gratuitous.
More relevant is the scene’s interruption by the arrival of Jan (Alex Brendemühl), sent by a relative to deliver the first of the narrative’s two eponymous offerings, a tall box containing a message or artefact from a deceased loved one. This has echoes of the Violet Evergarden anime series and its spin-off feature (Taichi Ishidate, 2020) in which the heroine works for a company which helps dying or terminally ill clients to write a letter or in some cases a lengthy series of letters to their loved ones to be delivered after the client’s death. Jan runs a similar company, which against expectation has turned out to be a viable business model. And the message in this instance is a video from Rita’s father, who has committed suicide, telling her how much her loved her.
Rita walks into the office of psychiatrist Violeta (Anna Alarcón) ostensibly to ask for advice about her husband, who after five good years of marriage is now obsessing over another woman. Violeta is shocked to learn that she is that other woman and has Rita thrown out. Nevertheless, she later meets first Rita, then Rita and Jan, then invites the couple to her home for en evening with herself and (when he insists on being there and has found a babysitter for their kids) her husband Nico (Pablo Molinero).
In parallel with this comes a plot about Violeta (Claudia Riera) as a young woman falling for beach guitar player Jan (Josh Climent) and heading off with him on his bike for a whirlwind romance against her father’s wishes (Jan physically assaults him before leaving with her). It’s all terribly idealistic.
So, basically, the narrative is about two couples where one partner in each couple is obsessed by a former lover who is now part of another couple. Sadly, I didn’t really care about any of them except perhaps the young Violeta, and even had I done so, there was nothing about any of the characters’ plights that drew me in. The men here don’t seem that significant (apart from Jan introducing the plot device revolving around the eponymous offering) which leaves the women.
Rita starts off as the protagonist, opening her soul to psychiatrist Violeta and pulling the latter towards Jan. Some scenes of Rita and Jan at home at night seem to involve a window, presumably it’s an apartment some way above the ground floor, although we never see an exterior. On one occasion, she blindfolds him then pulls him towards the window where, rather than opening it and pushing him through as you half expect, they make love against the glass. In a later scene, she opens the window and threatens to jump out.
That follows her going into the bathroom to dismantle the hairbrush containing her secret stash of coke which goes up her nose seconds afterwards. And when she first meets Jan at the start, when he’s the bearer of bad news, she has another memorable bathroom scene where she slashes her wrist.
After that early scene visiting Violeta’s office, the point of view shifts from Rita to Violeta. In the present day, we see less and less of Violeta’s professional life and more and more of her home life with Nico and the kids. Like Rita’s marriage to Jan, Violeta and Nico’s marriage is less than satisfactory. Its most memorable moments seem to involve her alone in the bathroom consuming or concealing medication, presumably to get her through the mundane day to day of a relationship that’s become stale. She even has a scene in the bath where one could almost believe she’s seeing an apparition (although it’s a pretty ambiguous moment and, frankly, it’s hard to know exactly what it’s supposed to mean).
Anyone expecting a thriller is going to be disappointed by the lack of thrills here. The eroticism isn’t particularly erotic. The whole is more effective as a romantic psychodrama, but even there for much of the running time the proceedings struggle to rise above the banal. The characters aren’t engaging in their interactions, the men are generally of far less interest than the women, and the latter only really light up the screen in those moments where they’re alone in the privacy of their bathrooms.
The Offering is out in cinemas, virtual cinemas and VoD in the UK on Friday, July 30th.