Montse’s agoraphobia keeps her secluded in her apartment until a young man is injured in a stairwell and crawls to her door.
Shrew’s Nest, or Musarañas as it’s known in Spain, is a gripping thriller by two first time feature writers about family ties and family lies. Set in the 1950s, the film starts off slowly with a dramatic feel that hints of what’s lurking underneath. As the story builds with a Misery hue, the tension rises and the film commands your attention completely and doesn’t let go until its blood-filled, and rather gory, tragedy induced climax.
Montse (Macarena Gómez) and her sister who everyone calls “La Niña”, or “The Girl” (Nadia de Santiago), live together in their parent’s apartment, their dad MIA in the war years before and their mum dead many years before that. Overbearingly protective, overbearingly religious and overbearingly agoraphobic, Montse can’t even step foot out of their apartment door without curling into a fetal position praying to her deity. Montse treats La Niña as if she’s her own daughter, but La Niña, who has just turned 18, is understandably tired of her sister’s constraints and wants to go out and grow up. This doesn’t sit well with Montse, and when she spies on La Niña kissing a boy, we get our first taste of Montse’s wrath.
When handsome dude, Carlos (Hugo Silva), a man living in the apartment above, knocks on Montse’s door in pain and bleeding, Montse does what Jesus would do and takes him in. At first Carlos is grateful for Montse’s help and the fact he is essentially “off the grid” sits well with his initially unclear motives, but as Montse’s infatuation grows and more of her troubled mind unravels, Carlos soon realises that his tenure isn’t as voluntary as he believes…
In a final act that turns the “bat shit” meter way past “crazy” up to “fking insane”, throwing in some twists that’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, the story still manages to make you feel utterly sympathetic with Montse, yet conflicted when she commits her heinous acts. If you grew up in her shoes, would you end up doing the same thing(s)?
Shrew’s Nest is a masterfully written tale. I have very little (for once) to complain about. Sure, some scenes were a little melodramatic, and sure some aspects of the story could have been cleared up, and sure there was a (minor) plot convenience or two, but Goddamn, this film was good in almost every conceivable way.
Acting was utterly superb. Macarena Gómez and Nadia de Santiago were masterful in their roles. The emotional ranges they had to deliver, ranging from sympathetic to terror, anger and insanity was impressive to witness and a joy to see. They are masters of their craft.
Montse was an extremely fleshed out and multi-dimensional character. Her motives and actions felt organic in the world created and you genuinely sympathised with her one moment, then watched her with disgust the next. Macarena Gómez was a perfect choice for the role too. Not only was she perfect acting wise as already mentioned, but her demeanour, mannerisms and looks complimented the character completely. When she acted nervous, you believed it. When she acted angry, you felt it. When she acted crazy as hell and her eyes bugged out, you feared it. All of this cemented the authenticity of the world the story was creating and engrossed you into Montse’s decent into madness.
Cinematography was very solid also with nice flowing shots that worked really well and only enhanced the story more than what it was already, and impressively, doing itself.
Direction and story, if you haven’t guessed by now, were fantastic also. Structurally, the film hit all of the beats on time. Textbook stuff. It is a pleasure to see a film do this but it’s even more impressive when I don’t notice it during. For me, this indicates that I was totally devoted to the world of the movie and not concentrating on the technical aspects of the film, something I always (annoyingly) do. Shrew’s Nest commands your attention and you gladly give it.
Flashbacks were delivered in “real time”, playing out with the characters flashing back present during it as if we were seeing their thoughts unfold before their, and our, eyes. It was a nice touch and worked really well, especially when the tragic backstory was revealed. I will admit, to the ensuring mocking of my mates, that I teared up a little during one reveal as the delivery of the dialog, the emotion conveyed by Macarena Gómez and Nadia de Santiago and the flashback playing out in the background was a gripping scene to watch.
I don’t want to reveal anything else so I’m going to end my gushing here.
Would I watch this again? Yes. I want to see this with friends and family so I can witness their faces as the story unfolds.
Would I recommend this film? Hell yes. Watch it now. This is not my typical fare as I much rather prefer straight up gore fests but by Shiva this was a well written, directed and executed film that should have any horror fan gripped with grippiness.
4 out of 5 sewing needles.