Distant direction choices almost overshadow The Offering dense narrative and strong cast performances. This cynical but intriguing film takes its time at fully getting to its point but remains effective in its execution.
Jan (Alex Brendemühl), mysterious and marked by a profound sense of guilt, tries to win back the love of his life, ex Violeta (Anna Alarcón), who is now a psychiatrist, with a family of her own. Unfortunately, Jan’s complex and perverse plan to reunite him with Violeta, 20 years after the events that led to their separation, will have severe consequences.
Jan tries to manipulate his way into Violeta’s life with the young Rita (Verónica Echegui). The latter visits Violeta as a patient, informing her that her partner is obsessed with another woman. As Violeta’s past is awakened within her (seen through flashbacks), the realisation that she is not as happy as she has pretended to rise within her in a rather telling sexual encounter. With Jan’s arrival back into her life, Violeta has to come to terms with her decision to “settle” with her husband, Nico (Pablo Molinero). Whether that has kept her slightly distant from her husband as a result. As we will get deeper in, this is where the film begins to open up its intrigue.
The Offering‘s opening paves the way for how the rest of the film will go for these characters; none are truly happy in their lives, and while they could be just floating along. Manipulation and dependency shine through the complex or, in some instances, in the opinion of these characters, not so certain complex nature of love. It is all somewhat cynical, and for that, it works wonderfully as the story unfolds before us.
At its core, The Offering is about the inability of letting go, of moving on and the woes of what could have been of our young lives once we reach middle age—the desperate yearning for finding that spark that was once there and the reliance on settling. Jan does so with Rita and Violeta with Nico, yet under all of that is the thread that it is rare or perhaps even impossible for two people to be in love with one another at the same time. There is always a see-saw effect with relationships. One will always feel more potent than the other, from young Violeta with young Jan, Rita with the present Jan, etc. There is always someone needing and someone in control of the relationship.
Of course, that may sway back and forth, but the only person aware of it is Rita, she is smart enough to comprehend in her mind this dynamic, and it is here where The Offering becomes an engrossing film. It constantly feels as if Jan needs to do something to place him in control of his partner. Showing how he can defend young Violeta, look after Rita etc. He is constantly manipulating, and by the end, it could very well be that he is the one looking to be the one needing. This psychological look at love reels you into the drama (it is hard to argue why this was classed as a thriller) as we see if Jans overly complicated plan comes true and what damage will he have caused if it does work as intended.
The cast help lift the relatively dense script with some solid acting as director Durrell explores their characters and their given space. While this is predominately a story about Jan and Violeta, it is Verónica Echegui shines the brightest. When Echegui is present on the screen, you feel as if something will happen. An urgency and freshness are there for all to see as she weaves her way through her complex yet compelling character.
Brendemühl and Alarcón convince as the pent up former lovers, both obsessed with that one summer to the point that once the two do get on screen together. The tension between them and their spouses reaches a boiling point, with both carrying a lot of baggage with their characters within the performances. Sometimes, some small things become unconvincing, but that is more due to the script than the performances.
The Offering often struggles due to that script and rather a lax direction, the cast is doing their best, but with not too much to go on and some rather pointless scenes, it never warrants its 110-minute runtime. Simply put, what happens in the film feels as if it is being dragged out, scenes last that touch longer than you would care for, and the narrative at times almosts trips over itself. Add in the apparent constant need for female characters to be naked and the unnecessary reasoning behind it, and The Offering begins to frustrate. Yet, by sticking with it for the performances alone and you have a solid enough film, just not one that urges you to watch it again.
THE OFFERING IS RELEASED ON 30TH JULY, IN CINEMA AND ON VIRTUAL CINEMAS AND VOD.
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