The Similars


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Similars
"Director Isaac Ezban brings a very distinctive look to the film, in more ways than one."

There’s something curiously romantic about bus stations. They’re places where strangers meet and, for just a few minutes or hours, have nothing to do but observe one another’s lives – often lives which, one way another, are in transition. As such, they exist outside conventional narrative space – especially at night, especially if they are somewhere remote, where there’s a sense that anything could happen. Or (at least in the absence of mobile phones) that anything could have happened to the rest of the world, without anyone there knowing.

There are no mobile phones in Martin (Fernando Becerril)’s bus station. There’s barely a working payphone – but perhaps that’s because of the rain. It has been falling very heavily for some time. Intermittent, static-crowded voices on the radio mutter something about a worldwide hurricane, and about not being the same as ordinary rain. At any rate, it seems to have stopped the buses arriving. This is bad news for Ulises (Gustavo Sánchez Parra), who is desperate to reach Mexico City before his ailing wife gives birth; and for Irene (Cassandra Ciangherotti), who is heavily pregnant herself and fleeing an abusive relationship. But as the night progresses and they are joined by fellow strangers, it becomes apparent that their situation is much, much worse than they had thought.

Copy picture

With a colour palette that segues between muted tones and black and white so smoothly that one barely notices, The Similars unfolds with the dark absurdity of a nightmare. It’s often hilarious, the changes that overtake its protagonists so ridiculous that we want to laugh at them as a child might, but their inescapability makes them simultaneously disturbing. There is talk of a virus, of diabolism. An old woman, muttering in what sounds like a Quechua tongue, rolls beads and points fingers. Fear of the unknown leads to wild accusations and defensive behaviour that is dangerous in itself. Assorted social and political prejudices rise to the surface.

Director Isaac Ezban, whose previous feature, The Incident, also had a dreamlike quality, brings a very distinctive look to the film, in more ways than one. A spoken introduction sets up the story as a fable or sorts and it keeps faith with this approach all the way through to its blackly comic epilogue. In between, the pacing is uneven and patches of the film feel stretched, but it retains a singular strangeness that will keep audiences focused. There’s also good work from Ciangherotti and from Santiago Torres, who plays a troubled child. A natural festival film, The Similars is unlikely to take the top awards but is destined to be one of those films that linger in the memory for years to come.

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2016
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There are strange goings-on in an isolated bus station.

Director: Isaac Ezban

Writer: Isaac Ezban

Starring: Luis Alberti, Carmen Beato, Fernando Becerril, Humberto Busto, Cassandra Ciangherotti

Year: 2015

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Mexico


Frightfest 2016

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