Directed by: Daniel de la Vega
Written by: Alberto Fasce, Gonzalo Ventura
Starring: Mariana Anghileri, Arturo Bonín, Diego Cremonesi
Grimmfest Film Review by: Darren Tilby
Sadly, I found On the Third Day to be a disappointing little flick: it’s bristling with good pedigree and promise and is one of the more visually stunning films I’ve seen. Unfortunately, its extraordinary cinematography and beautiful Gothic aesthetic belie a shallow movie, one light on substance or meaning or shocks.
Cecilia, a young mother fleeing an abusive partner with her young son (Martín) in tow, comes a cropper one night on a quiet rural road when she’s involved in a car accident. Three days later, she emerges alone from a disused building, having remembered nothing and without Martín, and wanders across the darkness of the country night, until finally finding help in a small petrol station and being taken to hospital. An increasingly terrifying string of events and realisations follows, leading Cecilia to the truth of what happened that night.
Mariana Anghileri wows with her sublime performance in the lead role of Cecilia as she swings from a delirious vulnerability to a sinister countenance over the film’s 85 minutes. There’s a solid supporting cast and a range of engaging, if occasionally underused, or poorly developed characters – Gerardo Romano’s killer priest, Enrique, for example, is never satisfactorily explained – to keep us invested in the story’s resolution—at least for the most part!
The thing is, On the Third Day is a very slow-paced film, which would be fine, except the payoff here isn’t good enough to warrant the time it takes to reach it. And this isn’t a long film, not by any means. But there are extended periods of very little happening and even less context for why those things have happened when they have. At least until the finale, from which comes a dump of exposition, sluggishly explaining what we’ve already figured out for ourselves.
Indeed, weak narrative writing is the agent of On the Third Day’s woes; and it does cause a not-unsubstantial number of problems throughout the film. However, while the film lacks in this area, it excels in others: the sound design is excellent, as is the editing, and Mariano Suárez’s cinematography, with its macabre gothic charm, represents one of the finest examples of its kind.
The film’s makeup is superb; the whole thing works together brilliantly to give the movie the feeling of a rich and sumptuous cinematic indulgence. Hence, despite its shortcomings, there’s a lot to like here, and I’m quite aware that On the Third Day has been very well-received—I’m happy that’s the case. But, for me, it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations.