Review: A Common Crime

Written and directed by Francisco Márquez, co-written by Tomás Downey, Cecilia (Elisa Carricajo) is a sociology teacher, one night the son of her maid desperately knocks on the door of her house but she doesn’t open it. The next day his body shows up having been murdered by the police and she begins to be haunted by the young man’s ghost. Also starring: Mecha Martinez, Eliot Otazo, Ciro Coien Pardo and Cecilia Rainero.

There’s a solid premise to this film exploring the consequences to prejudice and haunting guilt that could have easily been avoided but as you get into it, the question arises of whether it’s the story this film should be telling. It has one singular, shallow focus with a fairly limited perspective, it sticks so closely to Cecilia (Carricajo) that the actual events of the story are practically inconsequential. In this story of oppression, misuse of power, murder and injustice, it spends almost its entirety simply following a paranoid, well-off woman who has never taken the time to find out about the chaos and cruelty that’s happening just around the corner.

It’s a hard thing to look past when the focus is so intensely specific, there isn’t much else to consider than this one woman’s slightly unpleasant, self-inflicted experience. It’s worsened by the poor progression of the story, very little happens and at a slow pace, which with the themes of guilt, paranoia and the supernatural, it wouldn’t inherently be an issue but none of those come through strongly enough for it to hold its own. There’s an extended set-up to the catalyst of the story but it’s ineffective at building the tension and suspense necessary to pull off the more haunting atmosphere that it’s clearly going for. There’s also a number of issues in the creation of Cecilia’s character, she’s selfish and lacks a sympathetic edge, but the major problem is that she has little to no personality. It also doesn’t feel as though it’s committed to telling this story, it’s weakly handled and really holds back with the elements that had potential to add energy to it.

However, the direction is trying to write a more haunting cheque that the writing can’t cash, it’s pushing for a darker, tense atmosphere but there’s no balance to afford that and the result is bland. The acting is convincing, the only minor issue with Carricajo’s performance is that she walks at an inexplicably slow pace, it evokes the feeling of getting stuck behind a group of wandering tourists when you’re in a rush. Despite that anomaly, she does well given that she has to fight against the very limited qualities and personality that her character has. The rest of the cast don’t really get much chance to be involved in the story but they’re solid support and it’s a shame you don’t get to see more from them.

A Common Crime is frustratingly blinkered, it has an overly narrow perspective and arguably picked the wrong elements of its story to build the film around. It doesn’t build the tension and suspense needed to commit to the atmosphere it’s trying to create and the result is something bland, slow and unrewarding. There was a much larger, strongly political and energised angle to this story, one that would have had a vital message about oppression and unjust systems but instead it chose a relatively wealthy, pretty woman’s struggle with guilt caused by her own prejudiced, selfish behaviour. Had it held a more sincere message about privilege and self-awareness, it could have potentially worked but as it stands, it has too little to offer.

Verdict: ✯

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival –
Awaiting UK release date

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