★★★★ out of ★★★★★
🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸
There’s no shortage of the red stuff on display, but this rating is for what we don’t see that is left to our imaginations, as well as what we do see
A couple whose marriage is decidedly not in a good place . . . and add a newborn baby to that mix . . . find their lives fraught with horror thanks to the titular piece of furniture in the Spanish feature The Coffee Table. This one is not for the faint of heart!
Directed by Caye Casas
Spanish cinema gives us a strong nominee for “Feel-Bad Movie of the Year” with the pitch-black horror comedy The Coffee Table (La mesita del comedor; 2023). Director Caye Casas’ film is quite the opposite of uproarious — many viewers will find it hard to make it through the entire running time. Casas and cowriter Cristina Borobia go for highly uncomfortable “I can’t believe what I’m seeing and I’m not sure I want to see what lies ahead” responses and pull no punches.
The plot concerns married couple Jésus (David Pareja) and María (Estefanía de los Santos), who are raising their first baby and having a tough go of getting along with each other. Jésus goes against his wife’s wishes and buys a gaudy coffee table from salesman Cayetano (Eduardo Antuña), which leads to — no spoilers here — a series of unsettling events, to put it extremely mildly. If this sounds intriguing to you, go into The Coffee Table as cold as possible, because one of the strengths of this unnerving film is how well it keeps increasing the tension of the proceedings. Casas ratchets up the uneasiness masterfully.
Pareja and de los Santos are stunning in their portrayal of a couple in a frayed relationship; Josep Maria Riera as Jésus’ older brother Carlos and Claudia Riera as Carlos’ 18-year-old vegan girlfriend Cristina both provide strong support and add to the suspense greatly; Gala Flores thickens the anxiety as 13-year-old neighbor Ruth, who has disturbing fantasies about Jésus; and Antuña is terrific as the slick salesman.
The Coffee Table definitely isn’t for everybody and I would be hard-pressed to say exactly who it might be “for,” but the curious, the adventurous, and the brave should give this one a go to see if they might fall into the latter category.
Review by Joseph Perry
The Coffee Table screened as part of Fantaspoa, which took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil from April 13–30, 2023.
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