Friendship is always a fascinating subject for genre pieces. As a thesis, different filmmakers approach it in a variety of different ways. It can be something that binds our characters together, something they fight for, the thing that allows them to survive whatever horrors are thrown at them. Other times, it is more of a festering wound. Something broken below the surface. Amigo is more of the latter. The characters’ longtime friendship has been damaged in a way that is not readily apparent. Their issues emerge slowly and painstakingly and are more entrenched than either the characters or the audience thought was possible.
Directed by Óscar Martin from a script co-written by Martin and starring Javier Botet and David Pareja, Amigo starts out feeling like a buddy drama. Maybe in the years before, it could have been a buddy comedy, but life has drastically changed for these longtime friends, and they now find themselves in uncharted waters.
Javi (Javier Botet) has recently been through a horrible accident that left him severely injured. It also took the life of his wife. Alone and unable to care for himself, he finds himself dependent on David (David Pareja). His longtime friend decided to shoulder the responsibility of Javi’s care, rather than see him languish away in a hospital.
The film opens as they arrive at David’s house. When they arrive, David’s tone is pleasant - almost jovial at times. He sets Javi up in a large bedroom with a television and a little bell (in case he needs anything), and goes about seeing to his every need. They even take sojourns down the hill to a creek that runs behind the house, and spend hours just sitting there, enjoying the quiet and the view. In these moments, David seems to feel that he has everything well in hand. Better, in fact. He carries the expression of someone just kicking back with an old buddy, without a care in the world, as if his willingness to care for Javi erases all of Javi’s injuries and everything is suddenly just fine. Javi is largely quiet, in part because his lungs are damaged and speech is difficult, but it also seems that he simply has little to say. He’s dealing with a lot, and the support that David is offering just doesn’t seem to be nearly enough.
The film is a single location thriller, set during the final weeks of the year. A snow storm rolls in, and what starts out as a charming and peaceful locale slowly becomes something more isolated and haunted. As the weeks wear on, David’s demeanor changes drastically. He becomes increasingly irritable and short tempered. He begins hearing the tinkling of Javi’s bell when Javi appears to be asleep. He starts seeing strange things, and can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong in the house. His paranoia becomes so drastic, in fact, that he buys a camcorder and hides it in Javi’s bedroom in order to spy on his friend. Instead of clearing things up, his voyeurism only creates more confusion, as he sees things on the tv screen that can’t possibly be happening. Is something going on with David, or does it have more to do with Javi?
One thing is clear, however. Javi is not doing well in this shadow of his former life, and the care that he needs is increasingly becoming too difficult for David to properly manage. As the friction increases, we begin to uncover a lot of truths to this relationship that have been hidden for longer than simply the run of the film.
All in all, the film works as a dramatic tension piece. The actors really sell the story, as well as the personal unraveling that each one is experiencing. As a horror fan, it’s exciting to see Botet in something that allows him to simply act on screen. His monster performances are all obviously epic, but it’s a nice change to see him playing a character that is able to emote and deliver more of a subtle performance to the audience. Pareja does great as David and really leans into the deliberate balancing act that comes with a character like this.
Where the film struggles is really in the fact that there’s not quite enough there. Everything is well acted and well executed, but it feels a little light. Just a few more scenes to build up the momentum and fully inhabit this situation would have pushed it from good to great. That being said, the film definitely ends on a strong note. The final scene is simply horrifying. I won’t say much, but their entire relationship can be summed up in these final moments and they are exquisitely rendered.
Amigo is a solid thriller that makes good use of its setting and premise. The relationship at the core of the story is certainly interesting, and offers a great jumping off point for the character dynamics at play.
Movie Score: 4/5