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TIFF 2012 – Painless (Insensibles) Review (Matt Hodgson)

Painless (2012)

Starring Tomas Lemarquis, Alex Brendemühl, Derek De Lint, Juan Diego, and Silvia Bel

Directed by Juan Carlos Medina

MINOR SPOILERS

David (Brendemühl) is a brilliant neurosurgeon, a man obsessed with his job. His wife implores him to spend less time at work, after all they have a baby on the way. But family arguments quickly become the least of David’s worries after a deadly accident and an equally dangerous diagnosis tear his world apart. The treatment for David’s illness requires him to learn about his childhood and the place he was born. This investigation uncovers a history about a special group of children who were impervious to pain. But what starts out as a history lesson turns into a race against the clock as David tries to discover the truth about his upbringing in a fight for survival.

Painless is a slow burn and cerebral thriller that manages to interestingly blend two very different settings and times in Spain. The story oscillates between David’s present-day investigation into his genealogy and a sanatorium in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War. The sanatorium houses the aforementioned ‘painless’ children, whose innocent investigation of the world around them often has dangerous or bloody consequences as they have been given little reason to fear anything in life: fire, knives, animals, they are simply toys to these children. Medina’s blending of these two drastically different times and settings is rather seamless. As we witness the convergence of the storylines it rarely seems predictable and is usually captivating. It should be mentioned that the narrative does drag a bit in the middle of the movie, however Medina takes us into some very dark places of the human soul and this may have not been possible without the slow exposition preceding the payoff.

Brendemühl is very capable as the lead in the film, while the supporting cast is fairly strong throughout. However my attention was on the man in the shadows. Coming off his great performance in Errors of the Human Body, Tomas Lemarquis plays another very creepy character and is quickly making a name for himself through his memorable villains. I’m still waiting for him to get a truly vile role in a popular genre movie and become the household name that he deserves to be. That’s not to say that he couldn’t be successful in a mainstream movie, I just think he could be legendary in horror movies with the right roles.

Despite everything that Painless does well, the ending just feels rushed and wrong, almost as if the screenwriter quit or the crew ran out of time to film. It doesn’t ruin the entire experience of the movie, but it certainly holds Painless back from achieving greatness. It’s really a shame about the ending, but Painless is absolutely worth checking out for everything leading up to the end.

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