The Masterpiece (La Gran Obra) (2024)
The Masterpiece (La Gran Obra) (2024)

Genre: Drama, Psychological Thriller, and Short Running Time: 20 min.

Release Date: January 18th, 2024 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Alex Lora Actors: Daniel Grao, Melina Matthews, Babou Cham, Adam Nourou

 


 

“D

o you have anything?” Wealthy couple Leo (Daniel Grao) and Diana (Melina Matthews) pulls into a recycling center to get rid of a defective television set. Friendly Salif (Babou Cham) offers to take the item from them, which brings up the question of whether or not he even works at the facility, or if he’s merely intercepting various items for himself. When Diana suggests that Salif follow them home to pick up an unneeded dryer, the man agrees, calling over another helper, Yousef (Adam Nourou), who hops into a white van for the personal retrieval. Leo similarly ponders who this additional person might be – a son or a coworker, perhaps – but once the action transitions into the casual conversation between Salif and Yousef, it becomes clearer that they’re not attempting anything sinister.

Or are they? With eerily plucked string instruments and gentle, moody percussion crafting a murder/mystery vibe, ambiguity crops up once again. Nobody appears to have a darker motive, but the music insinuates that something unpredictable may happen at any moment. The innocuous routine of collecting various appliances – which transitions into books and a bicycle as well – morphs into what feels like a home invasion thriller. Odd expressions, characters disappearing for random moments, and lengthy pauses generate plenty of opportunities for misinterpretations – or clever discomfort.

For such a straightforward, unassuming premise, the scenario grows unexpectedly suspenseful. A sentimental item in a garage poses the notion of loss, while a potentially valuable painting offers up material for extortion. The tension escalates to hilarious extremes as negotiations reveal that the richer party can afford to make mistakes; options exist for the affluent, while pressures and limits are imposed upon those without comparable resources.

Expertly directed and staged by Alex Lora (with a story by Alfonso Amador and Lluis Quilez), this is excellent material for a short film. Refusing to dawdle, the scenario is tightly set for malaise of both the societal and situational kind; people from drastically disparate walks of life collide for a brief period of time to examine how value changes depending on personal status. The conclusion is purposeful yet vague, punctuating the motifs of bargaining and intentions, keeping the lines blurred as to who is actually in the more beneficial position for wheeling and dealing. There aren’t really heroes and villains here (though moral debates are one-sided), nor unequivocal winners and losers; the aim is instead to mold a chance transaction that prods audiences into dwelling on who possesses the upper hand when acts of generosity and manipulation suddenly flip perspectives.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10