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Original title: Tarde para la ira

D: Raúl Arévalo / 92m

Cast: Antonio de la Torre, Luis Callejo, Ruth Díaz, Raúl Jiménez, Manolo Solo, Font García, Pilar Gómez

After taking part in a robbery (as the getaway driver) that goes wrong and leaves one person dead and another in a coma, Curro (Callejo) is sentenced to eight years in jail. His girlfriend, Ana (Díaz), stands by him and they have a son together. In the weeks before Curro is due to be released, a stranger, José (de la Torre), begins to frequent the bar where Ana works – and which is owned by her brother, Juanjo (Jiménez). José is quiet, but soon becomes friends with Juanjo, and an attraction develops between him and Ana. Days before Curro is released, the pair sleep together, and José shows an unexpected interest in the details of the robbery, and Curro’s compatriots. When Curro is released, his angry nature drives a wedge between him and Ana, and José is able to persuade her and her son to come away with him to his family home in the countryside. When José returns alone, and tells Curro he wants to see him, he can have no idea of the journey that he and José are about to embark upon…

The winner in the Best Film category at the 31st Goya Awards – previous winners include All About My Mother (1999) and Blancanieves (2012) – The Fury of a Patient Man is a slow-burn thriller that doesn’t take too long in revealing its central character’s intentions (the clue is in the title after all), but which does leave the viewer guessing as to just how far José will go in his desire for revenge. Up until Arévalo reveals the answer in the movie’s most memorable scene, things unfold at a steady yet involving pace, with great care taken to establish the characters and the interplay between them. This allows Ana to be more than just a pawn in Jose’s game, and Curro to be more than just an angry thug, decisions that help the narrative immensely, and which also leaves the viewer with characters other than José to consider when wondering what will happen to them. Curro may not be entirely sympathetic but it’s soon obvious he’s in way over his head, while Ana could be accused of using José just as much as he’s using her, but it’s this kind of ambiguity that ensures the movie isn’t rote or predictable.

Once José and Curro meet, and they begin a road trip that will change both of them (albeit in very different ways), Arévalo and co-screenwriter David Pulido quicken both the pace and the tone of the movie, and throw in a couple of violent set-pieces that are unflinchingly brutal but still in keeping with the needs of the material. There’s also an uncomfortable moment when a minor character, only minutes after being introduced, is revealed to be pregnant. The camera switches to José whose passive features betray nothing of what he’s thinking. It’s another, potent example of the ambiguity that runs like a thread through the narrative, and the way in which Arévalo is able to tighten the screws at will. de la Torre is terrific as José, effortlessly diffident at the start and slowly but surely revealing the rage he’s nursed for eight years. As José cuts a bloody swathe through Curro’s compatriots, de la Torre’s portrayal becomes even more insular, with the character’s violent outbursts proving expectedly cathartic, and yet leaving him emotionally detached. Callejo and Díaz provide good support, and there’s exemplary camerawork from DoP Arnau Valls Colomer, especially in the opening scene, which is shot entirely from the back seat of Curro’s getaway car – crash and all.

Rating: 8/10 – a movie that builds tension through the motivations of its characters, and is often unflinchingly violent because of those motivations, The Fury of a Patient Man is both subtle and judicious in its character building, and blunt and uncompromising once it steps up a gear; an English language remake is in the pipeline, but it already has its work cut out for it if it’s going to be as good as this version.