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article imageReview: TIFF 2019: ‘Spider’ shows you can never really escape the past Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 13, 2019 in Entertainment
‘Spider’ is a complex story in which the past and present collide when a couple’s former ally returns and threatens to reveal the skeletons in their closets.
In the age of the internet and social media, there is a permanent record of almost everything. But there was once a time when the sins of your past could be buried and the only chance of it resurfacing was someone spilling the beans or inadvertently coming across evidence. For those who eventually rose to positions of power or found legitimate success, this is a danger that constantly lurks on the horizon and threatens to potentially destroy everything they built. Unfortunately, leaving the past in the past isn’t always a unanimous decision. In Spider, the third point of a triangle returns and his former partners do everything they can to silence him.
In the ‘70s, there was a radical political movement in Chile to overthrow President Allende and his Marxist government. It was violent, but effective. Inés (Mercedes Morán) and Justo (Felipe Armas) were committed members of the organization and they recruited Gerardo (Marcelo Alonso), an expelled military man, to join their cause. The three were inseparable… until Gerardo’s sacrifice for the group forced him into exile. Decades later, Gerardo returns to the country and makes headlines when he’s arrested for murder. Inés and Justo are now successful businesspeople, and they’re afraid Gerardo could take it all away if he decides to talk about their past illegal activities — so Inés takes action.
Nothing about these characters is exactly normal. Justo and Inés are married with a son, yet their political convictions are so strong they risk imprisonment or worse to make their point. They even pick a fight with people with opposing political views and walk away battered and bruised just days after Inés was in a photo shoot. Both halves of the couple have a violent streak, but Justo has a frightening temper and a lack of emotional control. In the meantime, Gerardo is looking for a place his skills are valued. Working odd jobs, his own temper makes any employment temporary. The group was lacking a member with his skillset, and Inés sees a man more thoughtful and deliberate than Justo.
All of their relationships lead to massive betrayals, then and now. Inés and Gerardo betray Justo by falling love and Justo returns the betrayal by ousting Gerardo, while Inés stands by for fear of his wrath turning on her. Then years later, Gerardo’s return is viewed as a threat to be eliminated. Since Justo is no longer the imposing figure he once was, it’s Inés who takes steps to silence her former lover — actions Gerardo does not take lightly. Consequently, the performances of all six actors portraying the three characters draw audiences into their somewhat unrelatable circumstances.
In spite of its relatively simple storyline, there is a lot of emotional complexity that lurks beneath the surface. However, rather than draw it out to its melodramatic potential, director Andrés Wood keeps it in the shadows of these characters’ interactions and creates an enduring intensity until finally at least one of the pots boil over with devastating consequences.
Spider had its international premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema category at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2019 coverage.
Director: Andrés Wood
Starring: María Valverde, Mercedes Morán and Pedro Fontaine
More about Spider, Mara Valverde, Mercedes Moran, Pedro Fontaine, Marcelo Alonso
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