An attachment to ‘four walls’ takes a dark turn in The Occupant (2020) – a flawed, yet enjoyable thriller by Netflix. Although the story explodes with too many ideas, this is a ridiculously gripping movie, and a hell of a spectacle of Spanish actor Javier Gutierrez.
Arguably, one of the main characteristics of wealth is that it’s liquid. You see, accumulation of tangible goods and assets happens over time. But losing it is often a steep fall, and one that possibly triggers the darkest mechanisms in human nature, such as greed and hate.
Javier (Javier Gutierrez) – the protagonist of The Occupant (2020) – knows it all too well. While being on a fruitless job hunt, he makes the hard decision to move out of his spacious apartment. For him, this posh flat is more than a place to live though. Leaving it is a symbol for his social status being on the ropes. So now, broken down and frustrated, Javier moves to a place that emphatically reminds him of that failure. He can’t settle on that, and that’s when things get ugly.
The Occupant (2020) – a story about obsession
The frustration of Javier begets a series of unlikely events, set in motion by his greed and a Machiavellian desire to do things his own way. That’s where the intricate plot, devised by Alex Pastor and David Pastor, reveals similarities to Gone Girl (2014). Just like the protagonist played by Rosamund Pike in David Fincher’s thriller, Javier too plays his cards confidently. He’s a manipulative sociopath, who asserts the right people, and propitiates others, all with a single purpose of satisfying his obsession. And just like Pike’s role, it’s a delight to observe this predator in action.
Interestingly, the script paints a character that isn’t likable at all. Javier lacks redeeming traits, even before he becomes desperate and therefore dangerous. Why would the audience care about a jerk such as Javier?
Javier Gutierrez is a delight to watch
Well, we care, and it’s down to Javier Gutierrez’s top-notch performance.
Through cold-bloodedness and lack of empathy, Gutierrez channels the calculated nature of Javier. Once prey to his own failure, Javier gets up on his feet, with ruthlessness that reaches everyone in the vicinity, including his family. And Gutierrez embraces the complexity of his sinister role. He’s the film’s star and its heart.
The direction takes advantage of what Gutierrez delivers. The Occupant (2020) isn’t thin on substance, as it touches topics like child molestation, as well as domestic abuse. Despite that, The Occupant (2020) isn’t a drama, but rather leans towards a thriller. The directors trade plot twists for character development, and Gutierrez provides a secure ground for that to happen.
Where does The Occupant (2020) fail?
The Occupant (2020) drives on the fuel provided by Javier Gutierrez. But David Pastor and Alex Pastor thicken the plot to an extent that some of its developments feel rather thin. Javier wades through some deep mud, but there is an invisible hand of the writers, which often helps him out. It’s a preferential point of view, and the circumstances often play along with Javier’s scheme. At times, he feels almost too empowered, and too knowledgeable for what other scenes would indicate.
I also felt that more could be achieved with the cinematography. The work of Paul Castejón could benefit from a more palpable contrast between the lavish apartment and the downgrade. Aside from the contrast, the photography is often very plain. Castejón, whose most profound work’s The Machinist (2004), knows how to build an ominous mood. That’s what The Occupant (2020) sometimes lacks – more grim cinematography that reflects the crooked mind of Javier.
A visually darker film could be less appealing to the masses. To be fair, if treated as a riveting thriller, The Occupant (2020) delivers. And maybe that’s enough for what what the plot’s worth. It’s a reminder of how materialism and consumerism plague our times. Yet the story’s final moments will leave you questioning the outcome for Javier – wasn’t it all worth a shot though?
The Occupant (2020) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
Javier Gutierrez’s arresting performance drives the uneven concept, and grounds what the film has to say about wealth in our times.
The Occupant (2020)
Hate Grade: 3.5/10
Directors: Alex Pastor, David Pastor
Writers: Alex Pastor, David Pastor
Starring: Javier Gutierrez,
Cinematography: Paul Castejón
Music: Lucas Vidal
Available at: Netflix
If you liked The Occupant (2020), you might also like:
- La Isla Minima (2014) – dark thriller that stars Javier Gutierrez
- Gone Girl (2014) – great, twisted story with psychological depth
- Deerskin (2019) – similar theme of obsession, and a sociopathic protagonist