Hierro is a beautiful film. Visually, it hits all the right notes: dark, rich moody blues, bleached sandscapes, interesting camera angles. A great lead actress in Elena Anaya. But this story of a woman losing her son on a ferry and her increasingly fraught search for him doesn’t convey enough threat or tension. The painterly cinematography deserves freeze-framing, though the overall effect leaves you feeling a little cold.
Saying that, I keep finding myself wanting to watch it again, more than many other films in my collection. Perhaps because it could have so easily become a classic. In an odd way, it reminded me of how I felt after watching John McTiernan’s 13th Warrior years ago: so much potential and some wonderful scenes, but no focus on anything other than the visuals, leaving character and substance somewhere on the cutting room floor.
I have a soft spot for this film. I watch it imagining the film it could have been, relishing the scenes that work perfectly, lamenting those that don’t. But as I said, visually, it is so beautiful that I can forgive it. Mostly.
Every frame, every angle has been lovingly rendered. It comes straight out of the Guillermo del Toro / Juan Antonio Bayona mould, and the UK distributers were quick to try and capitalise on this as a beautifully shot, scary-as-hell Spanish thriller. However, despite director Gabe Ibáñez’s determination to create another great Spanish export, it has fallen just a little short. Sadly, a lack of thrills is the main problem.
There are no real plot developments or reveals that you don’t see coming from quite a way off. The main character runs from set piece to set piece, with little sense of urgency, aside from a brilliantly filmed car crash at the beginning of the film (it’s worth watching for this alone.) It comes across as a little passionless in many ways: clinically beautiful, self-consciously done, with some tension, just not enough. But it’s still a sexy film to watch. And I forgive it.
Even as I write this I’m feeling guilty for criticizing it. It’s one of those films that appealed to me, flaws and all, despite my brain telling me a lot of it didn’t make too much sense. So go and watch it-you might be pleasantly surprised. But if you’re expecting The Orphanage Part II, you’ll be walking away very disappointed indeed.
I couldn’t find an HD trailer that does the visuals justice, but this will have to do: