Tribeca Film Festival 2023- “One Night with Adela”.
Hugo Ruiz’s “One Night with Adela” is a gritty tale of revenge designed to be experienced as one unbroken shot.
The style of making your film appear as one continuous take is, by now, a tired gimmick that few filmmakers can successfully pull off. The best examples of the technique used well can be found in Alfred Hitchcock’s1948 classic “Rope” and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2016 “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”.
Faint praise can be given to Aleksandr Sokurov’s 2002 “Russian Ark” and Sam Mendes’ 2019 war picture “1917”, although those work only because of their style. In both films, there isn’t enough “meat” found in their screenplays to get invested beyond the technical wizardry.
Director Ruiz’s use of the device works extremely well for his story, allowing the tension to percolate and the dark layers of Adela’s past to reveal themselves naturally.
Beginning its international release with its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival, “One Night with Adela” is Hugo Ruiz’s first feature length motion picture as writer/director.
An excellent Laura Galán stars as Adela, a street sweeper working the overnight shift in Madrid and is immediately introduced as a young woman with serious issues. Adela is tormented by self-image, anger, and drug use. Carrying a mighty emotional weight, this film becomes the tale of a broken woman on a mission of retribution that will surprise the audience.
One of the screenplay’s greatest strengths is how it never reveals its dramatic hand and is always far ahead of viewers’ expectations.
As the film opens, the character is finishing her work shift and begins walking down a street as a carload of men harass her. One man gets out and asks to go have a drink somewhere. Eventually, the man pulls Adela into an alley where he wants to rape her but steals her money instead. As he turns to leave, she strangles him to death.
With the tone now set, the film snakes through Adela’s disturbing night, revealing itself as a provocative and (at times) fascinating character piece.
Galán is absolutely riveting and makes good on her 2023 Best New Actress Goya Award win for the 2023 Sundance hit “Piggy”. The actress is in almost every shot and commands our attention with a fierceness and inner fire that makes Adela unlikeable and beguiling in equal measure. We cannot give over our sympathies (as the reason for her rage is, at first, unclear), but by the film’s end, there is a chance that many will have empathy for this broken soul.
Laura Galán’s portrayal of Adela is a fully committed and fascinating work from a talented performer. I look forward to watching her career grow.
Making excellent use of nighttime street-lighting, the single-shot style ultimately becomes a necessity in capturing Adela’s nocturnal spiral towards her goal.
Diego Trenas’ camera doesn’t draw attention to itself, instead becoming a dangerous voyeur/passenger to the picture’s unstable protagonist. The audience never knows where Adela is taking them, but the tight framing intensifies the drama and refuses to let us go.
Hugo Ruiz has created an intense and unsettling work that toys with the emotions of its viewers. The filmmaker doesn’t want us to judge his main character, but he asks for open minds as we take Adela’s dark trip. There is an endgame and the reasons for her actions are revealed in an absolutely devastating final act where sins both past and present meet head on.
“One Night with Adela” has something to say about sin and selective redemption and how religion can pollute the family unit. The film breathes with a deeper subtext that patient viewers will discover.
Director Ruiz has crafted a riveting and unique piece that is both thriller and potent character study.
With the film’s best line, “What people say conditions your entire life.”, Ruiz’s screenplay becomes both a lesson and a warning.
One Night with Adela
Written & Directed by Hugo Ruiz
Starring Laura Galán, Raudel Raúl Martiato, Jimmy Barnatán
NR, 105 Minutes, Con Unpack/Muertos de Inuidia/ ftf cam