Another addition to the burgeoning Spanish language sub-genre of 'is she nuts or not?' horror/psychological thrillers, Hierro covers similar emotional ground to The Orphanage and KM31. So similar is it, in fact, that you can't help but feel that you are going through familiar motions, which makes it difficult for Gabe Ibáñez's first-time feature to hold much surprise. The story set-up - concerning single mum Maria (Elena Anaya) whose son Diego (Kaiet Rodriguez) vanishes after she falls asleep on a ferry en route to the island of El Hierro - is also reminiscent of superior Hollywood fare such as Flightplan and The Changeling.

When, some months after Diego's disappearance, a body is found, the island's authorities send for Maria, but instead of identifying the corpse as her son, she denies it is him and the rest of the film shows her waiting for a DNA test on the island while becoming increasingly frantic - or possibly unhinged - as she begins to suspect something more sinister has happened to her child. Ironically, despite the narrative positively drowning in water imagery, there is never any sense of flowing story. Characters are perfunctorily dropped into the plot with and shorn of any development, meaning all the emotion is layered on in a slapdash fashion, rather than built gradually.

Copy picture

Where the film really scores, however, is in its look. Some of the cinematography and direction - particularly in the opening scene which involves a car crash - are spectacular. But there's always a nagging suspicion that every twist in the plot has been designed to feed these visuals, rather than to advance the story. So, while the handsome dream sequences may look lovely, they can't compensate for the lack of coherence.

Hierro also suffers from tonal difficulties; although adopting every psychological thriller mannerism in the book, it is never spooky and certainly not thrilling. Everything is too predictable and obviously signposted, so that the climax is less a revelation than a disappointment. There is no doubt that Ibáñez has the ability to create arresting visuals but Javier Gullón's story and script let down the enterprise to such an extent that even a powerhouse performance from Anaya is unable to give Hierro any lasting resonance. Worth seeing as an indication of better things we might expect from Ibáñez in future, but this is not one that will live long in the memory.

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2010
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A mother becomes convinced her missing son is still alive.
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Director: Gabe Ibáñez

Writer: Jesus de la Vega, Javier Gullón

Starring: Elena Anaya, Hugo Arbues, Jon Ariño, Miriam Correa, Tomás del Estal, Andrés Herrera, Javier Mejía, Kaiet Rodriguez, Raquel Salvador, Bea Segura, Mar Sodupe

Year: 2009

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain


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KM 31
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