Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"It’s a gem of a role for Raimi, who delivers the smooth talk and captures the high flying businessman look perfectly but shows us the human being behind them." | Photo: courtesy of Frightfest

One of two single take films at Frightfest 2023 (along with Thomas Sieben’s Home Sweet Home: Where Evil Lives), Failure captures a critical moment in the life of James (Ted Raimi), a 56-year-old CEO, a father to two daughters, and a man who has never been able to live up to his imagined picture of what his father wanted him to be. Life comes at him fast in this 87 minute drama as a lengthy process of deferring debts sees him reach the point where he has run out of options. He simply has no further access to cash. Either his beautiful family home or the factory which he has poured his life into will have to go.

This is not, as it emerges, really James’ fault. Multiple characters ascribe the company’s struggles to his father, and tell him that he has done well to keep it going for as long as he has. Life, however, has not prepared him to cope with this sort of situation. It’s not just a matter of personal pride. He’s worried about the factory workers, especially the foreman who has been there throughout his life and continues to be loyal. He doesn’t want his family to suffer either. One of his daughters is about to get married and needs help with the wedding expenses. He has told her nothing of his predicament and now, as he begins to fall to pieces emotionally, she wants him to deal with the groomsmen’s wedding fitting, an occasion complicated by cultural and generational differences which he handles with a grace that no-one else present is able to achieve. His other daughter is savvy enough to have figured out that all is not well, but he doesn’t want to burden anyone.

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In this situation, the only person he can really talk to – someone whom one suspects has never really left him alone – is his dead father (Noel Douglas Orput), who is always at his side and always ready to tell him that he’s making mistakes. In between a series of visits from creditors and prospective buyers, the two talk, and his self confidence is gradually chipped away. His very desire to do the right thing prompts him to make extreme choices which leave him in an increasingly precarious ethical position, and will leave viewers wondering just how far he’s willing to go. The real horror, however, stems from the fact that whatever he may do, the real monsters of the corporate world will barely bat an eyelid.

It’s a gem of a role for Raimi, who delivers the smooth talk and captures the high flying businessman look perfectly but shows us the human being behind them. James is a man afraid to acknowledge his own humanity, doing his best to smother his better nature for fear of looking weak. He’s always the centre point of the action, with the camera orbiting around him as he moves through the open plan areas of the house whose large windows, it is implied, look out in the direction of the factory. In this day and age, sympathy for the man in the big house on the hill is in short supply, and yet Raimi attracts it by showing us his vulnerability and, crucially, the fact that he too is just a cog in a machine which he has no idea how to control.

Handsomely shot, the film itself has a polish which suits its subject matter. There’s a danger that this will make it too slick, on the surface, for some viewers to grasp. Underneath it is turbulent, brooding, sorrowful. The failure it depicts extends far beyond one man.

Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2023
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Failure! packshot
Due to a massive debt with his bank, James is given one hour to choose between financial ruin or murder to protect his family. Shot in one single take with no cuts.

Director: Alex Kahuam

Writer: Alex Kahuam

Starring: Ted Raimi, Merrick McCartha , Noel Douglas Orput, Melissa Diaz

Year: 2023

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: Mexico

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