Review: Under Pressure

Written and directed by Diego Fandos, co-written with Jose Kattau. He enjoys swimming, she enjoys swimming, he trains hard, she trains hard, he likes her and she likes him. Starring: Georgi Unkovski, Rebecca Labbé and Jakub Kohák.

Making the decision to avoid dialogue entirely in your film is a tricky one, it doesn’t always work out but here it works well, allowing you to make your own inferences rather than pushing you into a singular direction. It also allows for the film to be completely universal, it would be hard to find someone that couldn’t relate to it at all. The film opens on a lone man, swimming laps, there’s an atmosphere to the choice of activity that’s pensive but whatever was on his mind is clearly forgotten as soon as he catches a glimpse of the mystery girl. His burning stare admiring her as she fixes the shoulder strap of her swimsuit is simultaneously sign of a budding romance and a little bit creepy, it gives an interesting ambiguity to the film’s direction.

Once the leads get a chance to interact that uncertainty is answered in the form of sharing lingering looks between the two and despite never speaking a word to one another, they have a strong chemistry. Stories of romance are hinged upon that chemistry, without it no matter how good the other elements of the film are, it will never really work, so that initial interaction between Unkovski and Labbé held the film’s fate in its hand but they did well. The scene embraces the simple act of bonding over a shared interest. Their connection is strongest earlier on, when the film hits its latter moments, it weakens due to the more forced nature of the plot. While the majority of the film feels perfectly natural, the climax seems unjustified, how they got from one moment to the next feels difficult to reason and is the only moment where the lack of dialogue doesn’t entirely work because it would have potentially explained that issue away.

Fandos focuses a lot on the details, including a lot of closer shots to give a more intimate feel, not through actual intimacy but aspects like the details of their clothing. The direction and writing also take a look at the idea of judging a person based both on first impression and appearance, doing so in a way that’s funny and leaves a moment or two of breathing space for the audience to not know whether they’re using it positively or negatively. The last scene was an interesting direction to take, as mentioned it feels a little out of place, but it’s shot very well, underwater scenes provide plenty of challenges but this crew handled them with grace. It’s also supported by good editing, it’s not over eager, it’s well thought out and even holds back a little at certain moments, allowing for those feelings of hesitation or doubt to soak in before making its next move.

Under Pressure takes a romantic moment, the very beginning of a potential relationship and creates something funny, universal and curious. There are a couple of tweaks that could have been made but overall it works really well, the concept adds a touch of individuality to what could have been a very typical story. The actors’ performances provide a great level of chemistry with the limited freedom available to them with no dialogue, it’s an interesting challenge that they both embraced. There’s a quality to the film that gives off the impression there was a solid team working together to make it, each element works smoothly in unison to create the final product.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 7/10

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