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(The 2018 Sundance Film Festival runs January 18-28 and Hammer to Nail promises more reviews than any other outlet! Stay tuned for interviews, features and reviews…)

A quirky amalgam of social criticism and surrealism, Time Share, a new film from Mexican director Sebastian Hofmann (Hailey), combines absurdist dark humor and searing trauma in a mix not always 100% narratively successful, but almost always cinematically stimulating. Cinematographer Matias Penachino contributes beautiful compositions, framed in unnerving, awkward angles, throwing production designer Claudio Ramirez Castelli’s vivid sets into sharp relief. Composer Giorgio Giampà and sound designer Jan Schermer combine efforts to render the story’s unsettling socio-economic subtext with eerie, haunting notes of comic despair. Great performances complete the sense of strange wonder throughout. Though the movie left me dissatisfied in many ways, I have no doubt this was the director’s intent. I’d love to see more from him.

The story begins with Andres and Gloria, a married couple grieving the loss of, we assume, a child, about to lead guests at some sort of vacation resort in a potato-sack race. Suddenly, Andres collapses. Cut to 5 years later, where we meet a brand new couple, younger, with a child in tow, arriving at their vacation villa, run by a company named Everfields. Through a registration slip-up, their hoped-for week-long retreat in paradise is spoiled by the arrival of another, louder and larger, family, double-booked in the same villa. Though selling itself as a global purveyor of time-share glory, Everfields is all about maximizing profits over pleasure. People are but pawns in their capitalist game.

This corporate malevolence is embodied in an unlikely source: the actor RJ Mitte (Walter White Jr. on AMC’s Breaking Bad). Usually a benign presence, with his mild cerebral palsy lending him a certain air of harmlessness, here Mitte oozes unction and plutocratic charm, leading his budding minions through the organization’s managerial training program, teaching them how to use the emotional agony of their past as a selling tool. He sees Gloria, whom we find again here (Everfields took over from Villamar, the company running the resort in the film’s opening scenes), as a future star. Unfortunately, Andres has become, since his attack, a sad-sack shadow of his former self, and now exists as an impediment to Gloria’s dream of betterment. Into their drama come the two families at the overbooked villa, adding bitter fuel to the tinder of their vitriol.

Despite this odd, almost unwieldy set-up, there is a light touch to the mise-en-scène that lends the story a jaunty feel, however off-beat the plot. I love the peculiarity of it all, even as I balk at some of the tonal inconsistencies. Hofmann has a unique voice, and the film feels like a genuinely original work of art. With a sharp acting ensemble that includes Luis Gerardo Méndez (Chava on Netflix’s Club of Crows), Cassandra Ciangherotti (Las Horas Contigo) and Miguel Rodarte (Saving Private Perez), Time Share takes you on a journey down the rabbit hole of elusive and illusory dreams that quickly turn into nightmares. It’s not always pleasant, but mostly gripping and very profound.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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