There is a difference between living and really living. Between living day-to-day and living life to its fullest. Living day-to-day is easy, but living life is a skill. From Spain comes The Motive by director Manuel Martín Cuenca.
Alvaro (Javier Gutiérrez) is a meager accountant, who dreams of becoming a prolific writer. During his master class on writing, the instructor Juan (Antonio de La Torre) rips Alvaro a new one because his writing is fake and superficial. If he is ever to continue in his class, Alvaro needs to write about something that has life to it. Something at feels real.
“…what happens when real life is not exciting enough?”
Meanwhile, Alvaro’s wife Amanda (María León) has beaten him to the punch. She has become a local celebrity by writing a bestselling book of her own. She has also begun an affair with her publisher. She says that Alvaro is no longer exciting as a person.
Wanting to prove everyone wrong, Alvaro moves into a nearby apartment complex hoping the new surroundings will help inspire his book. His scheme appears to work as Alvaro begins to write about his neighbors and their conflicts, Particularly his next-door neighbors Enrique (Tenoch Huerta) and Irene (Adriana Paz). Both are immigrants from Mexico and Enrique is about to be laid off from his job. If that happens, then they will have to move back to Mexico and Irene would rather divorce Enrique than move back home. Good drama comes from real life, but what happens when real life is not exciting enough?
Alvaro seizes his neighbor’s misfortune as an opportunity and records their arguments on his cellphone through his open window. He also starts interfering in their everyday life in order to ensure Enrique can never find a job, thus extending the couple’s conflict. Alvaro also enlists the help…I mean Alvaro seduces the landlord’s wife, Portera (Adelfa Calvo) in order to give him gossip about the other neighbors. His manipulations soon have serious consequences for both his subjects and himself.
“He captures the character’s desperation to make a name for himself and his cluelessness…”
The Motive is a fascinating film about an average and bland man, who finally takes life by the horns and still does nothing with it. The story Alvaro is writing may be exciting, but he’s still observing the exciting life of others rather than experiencing it himself.
Javier Gutierrez gives a subtle, yet sympathetic performance as Alvaro. He captures the character’s desperation to make a name for himself as well as his cluelessness in wondering how to do it. The ending feels slightly contrived, but Alvaro’s reaction to the twist is perfect.
The Motive is a fun, light film with a sad sack lead we can love and good laughs sprinkled throughout. Finally, I will say to whoever put together the English subtitles; it’s not a good idea to run them directly over Alvaro’s junk while he’s whipping it out. It can be a little distracting.
The Motive (2017) Directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca. Written by Alejandro Hernández and Manuel Martín Cuenca. Starring Javier Gutiérrez, María León, Antonio de La Torre, Tenoch Huerta, Adriana Paz, and Adelfa Calvo.
3.5 out of 5 stars