Death is an inevitable part of life, but there is a wide spectrum of different ways people die...
...If we’re fortunate, we’ll fade away in our sleep, or make our fatal transition surrounded by family and friends. Having a thrill-seeking nurse inject poison into your veins right after a doctor gives you hope of living is not part of the fortunate variety. That’s the basic premise of writer/director Martin Kraut’s, La Dosis. Making its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, this Argentine horror thriller flirts with heart pounding tension, but has trouble truly seizing it.
Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi), a quiet, mild mannered nurse, works the night shift at a Provincial private clinic. To his superiors and colleagues, Marcos is a diligent worker and despite many opportunities, refuses to take days off. As dedicated as he is to his work, he doesn’t exactly do everything by the book. Marcos has appointed himself as a clinical death courier of sorts. He makes the secret executive decision to kill terminal patients that are spending their last days suffering. Noble, but not exactly ethical. During a time of great transition at the clinic, a first-time nurse is appointed to work alongside Marcos. Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers), is a young, charismatic guy, who almost immediately earns the affections of the staff. Marcos, however, is suspicious of Gabriel’s unabashed tenacity and soon discovers they have a dark secret in common. Marcos struggles to maintain control, as Gabriel’s presence threatens to reveal their alternative methods.
La Dosis is the kind of film that doesn’t loudly announce itself as a thriller. It’s a very understated affair that is more concerned with providing a consistent level of unease rather than moments of shock and twisty revelations. In many respects I really appreciate that angle, as it comes across far more naturalistic and less contrived. The somber, uneasy tone is supported by the excellent use of blue color filters and low-lit environments. There is a stark coldness to the clinic with its drab, sterile rooms and most of the staff appear fatigued, depressed, and joyless. It’s all there to emphasize the immersive qualities of the film, and it’s done so with quiet subtlety. This is a dialogue-heavy film as well, with most scenes boiling down to two people having conversations in whispers and unenthused tones. The talky bits aren’t info dumps of exposition, but rather subtle clues about who these people are. You learn about these characters based on what and how they say things, as opposed to being told of a person’s characteristics. It’s not revolutionary stuff, but it is an effective, fluid way to develop characters.
Performances are solid across the board. Carlos Portaluppi fully inhabits the role of Marcos and gives the audience a sympathetic, yet not entirely likeable character. It’s clear his intentions are pure, but his sneaky trips to the prohibited medicine storage and questionable ethics are tough to get behind. Nonetheless, Marcos is a fully believable character and Portaluppi infuses him with weighty emotional struggles and relatability. Ignacio Rogers is great as a charismatic conman. The moments with Gabriel and Marcos are always fraught with tension and are easily the best bits of the film. Fortunately, there are a lot of them and each exchange between them reveals more to the audience about who these men really are. I found myself eagerly awaiting these moments, as both actors are always fully invested in their scenes. The character of Noelia (Lorena Vega) felt underused and forgotten by the third act. Early in the film we see that her and Marcos have a close friendship, but her character kind of gets pushed out of the way when the conflict between the two men takes center stage. I would have much preferred a bigger inclusion of Noelia. Perhaps, Marcos could have confided in her when things got dodgy for him, or there could have been a subplot involving her somehow. She is introduced to us as if she will remain important throughout the film, but as the film progresses, her character fades into the background. It’s unfortunate that Vega’s talents were not utilized more here, because I believe it would have better balanced the film.
Much of why I like this film is attributed to the slow, atmospheric flow and tone, but there is a flip side. While the consistency of tone is always highly regarded in my book, I do think that the film could have ratcheted up the suspense and sense of danger. Very rarely do our characters find themselves in any real danger and when they are, its extinguished before we actually fear for them. A scene in which both Marcos and Gabriel are speaking to their superior starts off with anxious anticipation but ends with little to no actual consequence. There are several scenes like this, that flirt with the idea of becoming suspenseful, but never fully take advantage of the circumstances. Again, I do appreciate the film for never going over-the-top and bludgeoning us with contrived shock moments, but a happy medium would have been ideal. As it stands, the film definitely has its moments of tension, but for the most part it’s a steady, static stream of quiet unease.
La Dosis is a very watchable, enjoyable little thriller. It houses excellent performances from its cast and exhibits a robust sense of atmosphere, drawing you into its grim world of death and secrets. Clocking in at a breezy 90 minutes, the film never outstays its welcome and is paced appropriately. It isn’t always the most exciting film and it likely won’t have you holding your breath in suspense, but its consistent tone and character focused story will surely satisfy fans of the genre.
La Dosis will be playing On-demand through Fantasia throughout the festival.
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth