Hugo Ruíz’s directorial effort – ‘One Night with Adela’ is reportedly a one-shot film. Whenever a filmmaker uses this technique, it creates a certain amount of buzz before the film’s release. There are several examples of such works in the history of cinema. Works like Birdman and 1917 merged several long shots to appear like a seamlessly extended take. On the other hand, films like Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria or Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point were shot in single long takes, i.e., uninterrupted shots. 

The reason why both films work exceptionally well is that they had a clear purpose behind the use of that technique. In both cases, the use of one take feels justified. The dramatic build-up makes up for emotional reasoning for why its characters end up doing what they do. Those actions need not feel justified in our reality but feel apt in their world – due to all that the characters go through during the runtime. One Night with Adela from Tribeca falls flat in that regard. 

While following the journey of a street sweeper from Madrid, the Spanish film takes us through a single night of her life. For the viewers, Adela’s night begins with a few lowlifes cat-calling her on the streets of this city. As a result, within its first few moments, the film establishes its rage-fuelled set-up and puts us into the headspace of a tense thriller. It demands our attention to the gruesomeness that this woman is subjected to and subjects others. 

A still from One Night with Adela (2023).
A still from One Night with Adela (2023).

Later on, Adela meets her coworkers. She has a meandering dialogue about their lives and then gets hold of some drugs. The later ‘rampage’ that she goes on is a result of her intoxication. But there is more to it. She is not acting recklessly just because of being under the influence. Her transgression is a result of her past traumas. 

One Night with Adela acts as an exhibition of her pent-up anger due to some things that happened in her early life. It attempts to comment on the themes of religious taboos and childhood trauma. 

It tries to present how shame often manifests from the institutions that we hold dear and sacred. From the beginning, the script tries to showcase how Adela’s life story is but one such narrative that stems from a lack of safety or security in places that promise the same. However, the writing and the direction remain inept in making any larger statement about those aspects since much of its focus is on building anxiety through shock value. While having gritty, relevant themes at its core, the script cheapens itself by reluctantly using such theatrics. 

The one-shot technique also feels like an unnecessary gimmick. An alternate way of execution with a tight narration could have resulted in a significantly more impactful work. While the film startles us with its initial part, it loses the tension soon since the script has very little to add through a lengthy stretch. The film drags plenty during its runtime and struggles to hold your attention. 

The screenplay is constantly derivative, which limits the film from having a cerebral impact. Whatever happens in Adela’s life seems like a clumsy mix of tropes from similar dramas about troubled, irredeemable women than an in-depth, well-realized study of a real-life woman and her lived-in experiences.

The writing almost feels like incoherently collected thoughts, which do not always feel genuine to be coming from the character. There are references to things like the Black Mirror series and the Oscar award acceptance speeches scattered in the dialogue that feels out of character for her.

Another reason why the film infuriates is how Adela is considered only as a reflection of her trauma. The writing has given her hardly any personality beyond the terrible circumstances that she had to face. As a result, the film’s presentation of overt rage wears us out, despite Laura Galan’s consistent efforts to hold our attention. 

The actress, who is known for her award-winning performance in Carlota Pereda’s Piggy, is just as commanding in One Night with Adela. Galan is occasionally so exceptional that the script seems to do a massive disservice to her talent.

One Night with Adela was screened at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival

One Night with Adela (2023) Links: IMDb
One Night with Adela (2023) Cast: Laura Galan, Gemma Nierga, Jimmy Barnatán, Raudel Raúl, Litus, Rosalía Omil, Fernando Moraleda, Beatriz Morandeira
Language: Spanish
Runtime: 105 Minutes
Editor: Hugo Ruiz
Cinematographer: Diego Trenas

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