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Original title: Fin

D: Jorge Terregrossa / 92m

Cast: Maribel Verdú, Daniel Grao, Clara Lago, Carmen Ruiz, Andrés Velencoso, Miquel Fernández, Blanca Romero, Antonio Garrido, Eugenio Mira, Sofía Herraiz

Six friends who haven’t gotten together in twenty years meet up at a cabin in the mountains for a reunion.  Félix (Grao) brings along his new girlfriend, Eva (Lago), while Hugo (Velencoso) brings his wife, Cova (Romero).  Sara (Ruiz), who contacted everyone, is single, as is Sergio (Fernández).  This leaves the two friends who have married each other, Maribel (Verdú) and Rafa (Garrido).  With everyone arrived, there’s only Ángel (Mira) to wait for.  Ángel isn’t well-liked by the men in the group, their behaviour toward him in the past leading to Ángel having a breakdown and spending most of the next twenty years in a mental institution; only Sara has kept in touch with him.  It’s not long before old feuds and animosities begin to be aired, and round a campfire that first night, various personal grievances are revealed as still being close to the surface.  And with Ángel still not having arrived, things get heated until there they all hear a strange sound that seems to tear apart the very air. Moments later, they realise that there is no electrical power, and that batteries won’t work either.

The next morning, the group learns that there is still no mains power, that the telephone doesn’t work, and that Rafa has disappeared.  Everyone hikes down to the nearest house but they find it deserted, though there is evidence that whoever lived there, they left in a hurry.  Deciding to carry on to the nearest town, the group takes a short cut through a gorge but along the way, a member of the group vanishes into thin air.  Frightened by all these strange events, and by the realisation that any one of them might be the next to disappear, they continue to head for the nearest town.  The next morning, someone else has disappeared but the remainder continue their journey; the scene of a car crash provides a startling discovery, and stopping at a pool later on, the group is reduced to four.  At one house they find themselves pursued by a pack of hungry dogs, and this leads to four becoming three.  These three reach the town, and there they encounter a little girl.  The girl runs from them but when they finally catch up with her, it’s only one of them who discovers exactly what’s happening…

End, The - scene

Adapted from the novel by David Monteagudo, The End is a somewhat languidly paced end-of-the-world drama that, wisely, never attempts to explain what’s happening or why, and keeps itself focused settled on the characters and how they cope with the mystery unfolding around them.  The early scenes, with the friends’ long-buried grievances quickly being disinterred, suggest that the movie’s title may well be a metaphor for the end of the group’s closeness and love for each other (though the inter-relationships do appear fragile from the outset).  But from the moment when Félix notices that Sirius is no longer visible in the night sky, the movie begins to shift into something more threatening and mysterious.  Practical considerations give way to a growing sense of unease as their journey sees their numbers dwindle, and hidden truths are revealed.  It’s a deliberately low-key approach, with the screenplay by Sergio G. Sánchez and Jorge Guerricaechevarría providing sparse character histories and yet making Ángel a key player despite his absence.

There’s much to like here but under the direction of Torregrossa there’s also a lack of heightened tension, with only one disappearance given its proper due, a beautifully awful moment that occurs in the aftermath of the remaining group being chased by dogs.  The rest of the journey fails to match up to that one moment and is more a matter of guessing which character will vanish next (and even that’s not too difficult to work out).  With such a limitation built in from the outset, The End risks underselling the gravity and enormity of its central conceit, and there are too many instances where the same observations are made over and over again, but thanks to some enthusiastic, resolute performances, the movie overcomes these obstacles with a large measure of understated confidence.  As one-time lovers, Verdú and Grao give the most appealing and solid performances, and there’s able support from Lago and newcomer Velencoso, but it’s Ruiz who captures the attention, her growing panic and fear realised with sweaty intensity.

The movie makes the most of its mountain locations and the sweeping vistas are breathtakingly filmed by cinematographer José David Montero (indeed, some shots wouldn’t have gone amiss in the Lord of the Rings trilogy).  There’s an interesting, relaxed score courtesy of Lucio Godoy that supports the emotional and dramatic currents that run throughout the movie, and despite the slow, deliberate pace, the whole thing is assiduously edited by Carolina Martínez Urbina.  Torregrossa handles the themes of betrayal, regret and redemption with assurance, and if not every plot strand is resolved or addressed it’s because the nature of the drama prevents it.  And the ending, despite all that’s gone before, ends on a hopeful note that stops the movie from being completely nihilistic.

Rating: 7/10 – a quietly atmospheric drama that unsettles its audience in small, unobtrusive ways, The End builds uncomfortably to an ending that is both tragic and promising; far more affecting than at first viewing, this is one movie that makes a virtue of being modest.