Deep and profoundly somber Western thrillers seem to be gaining popularity among filmmakers, adding more substance to their works. F. Javier Gutierrez's "The Wait" is a beautifully blended fusion of genre elements that serve as the backdrop for a man navigating the depths of despair. Drawing inspiration from old poems and passages reminiscent of classics like "Dante's Inferno" or "The Green Knight," we follow one man's journey into his own personal abyss. Gutierrez challenges the conventional narrative by infusing ancient philosophies and politics of the mountain people, a world he knows intimately. "The Wait," or "La Espera," is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally taxing films you'll encounter this year.
As a father, "The Wait" strikes a deep chord. The film begins with a heartwarming father-son story, steeped in Spanish hunting traditions passed down through generations. However, even the most skilled hunter cannot escape the clutches of regret. Losing an entire family is a burden that eclipses all others, except perhaps losing one's sanity. Just when it seems things can't get any worse for Eladio, portrayed with mesmerizing intensity by Víctor Clavijo, supernatural phenomena begin pushing him closer to the edge. Puzzle pieces become harbingers of madness, leaving Eladio with a seemingly impossible choice: to end his own life.
"The Wait" is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Miguel Ángel Mora, and F. Javier Gutierrez's storytelling unfolds as a deliberate slow burn, effectively conveying the relentless dread that Eladio grapples with each day. The sweltering heat you feel through the screen mirrors the inner fires that rage beneath each of Eladio's decisions as he copes with his grief. This film showcases Gutierrez's growth as a filmmaker since his last major feature, bringing a story closer to his heart.
While "The Wait" may not deliver the conventional thrills of a blockbuster horror or action-packed Western, its compelling narrative places it among the top films on this year's list at FF.