The Bar (2017)

Directed by
Probably the weakest Alex De-la Iglesia film
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-11-13

A beautiful woman is on her way to meet a date when her phone runs out of battery. She pops into a nearby bar/café to try to find a charger. The bar contains some oddball regulars and a couple of random customers. When the next customer leaves they hear a shot rings out, and he drops to the ground in front of the door. Looking outside they see that the streets are deserted, then they notice they have no phone signal. They speculate about what is happening, and then paranoia starts to set in.

THE BAR is another "hell is other people" film like La Comunidad, featuring multiple characters tightly choreographed in a single location, similar to My Big Night. It isn't as good as either of them though.

Alex De-la Iglesia films generally feature characters who are rather despicable, or at least seriously flawed, but he has a way of making us root for them anyway - who amongst us isn't flawed in one way or another after all. This is perhaps the first time he has failed to do so for me though.

The main problem is that Elena is too unblemished - beautiful, wealthy (implied) and also a more or less good person. As the primary focal point she's just too clean to be really interesting. Conversely pretty much every other character is unlikeable because they're trash.

The film's theme is that social conventions break down pretty quickly when people are isolated from society, and it's not long before people start turning on each other and viewing each other with mistrust. Perhaps too soon as we don't get much chance to see their good side first. It's hard to root for any of them but especially Nacho, who is grabby scum from the start but seemingly presented as a potential romantic interest for Elena. Ugh, she'd be better off with Israel.

Israel is the most interesting character and the most annoying - a homeless alcoholic full of biblical fire and brimstone is a wildcard that makes the situation unpredictable, but he is able to deliver the film's message most directly - as long as their own lives are comfortable people find it all too easy to ignore the suffering of people worse off than them. Unfortunately he's played so over the top its kind of easy to see why.

I'm sure it wasn't intentional but the film's message could be read as "it doesn't matter how many people at the bottom of the social hierarchy are sacrificed as long as privileged folk are OK", which is not my politics and I'm fairly sure not De-la Iglesia's either. It suggests a certain lack of care that this could be the lesson somebody takes from it though.

This is probably Alex De-la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría's weakest script, with too many "why don't they just...?" moments and failures to realise something obvious. It feels like the characters are driven by the situation rather than vice versa.

We're all entitled to the occasional misfire though, and even if it is probably the least enjoyable De-la Iglesia film I've seen there are some parts that work, and it's still more interesting than anything most film makers have done.