The Silence of the Marsh -review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A psychotic thriller writer lives out the gruesome scenarios he writes in his books. When a prominent political figure disappears, because of the writer’s actions, it sets in motion a chain of events he could not have anticipated.

Is it any good?: The Silence of the Marsh promises more than it delivers. With a muddled story and inconsistent pacing, the film struggles to hold one’s attention through its ninety-minute runtime.

Spoiler territory: Q (Pedro Alonso) flags down a taxi in the pouring rain. The driver (Luis Zahera) is raging as he listens to a football game on the radio. Q sits in the back of the taxi quietly as the driver excitedly listens to the game. Q argues with the driver when he takes an unknown route to the destination he has given him. The driver insists it is a quicker route.

Q begins to cough a little, seeming a bit poorly. The driver asks him if he is okay. A little later he pulls into a petrol station and throws him out of his taxi, screaming at him for vomiting in his cab. Another time and Q is reading an excerpt from his book to a rapt audience at a book signing.

Back in the rain, Q watches the taxi driver cleaning his interior. He gets a rock and walks over to the driver and bashes his brains in, killing him. At the book signing, a woman, Maria (Mariam Torres), asks him about his character’s motivation, as he has never written about his character’s past, the reader never finds out why he kills. Q tells her it is because he can.

He goes to his home in Valencia, writing about the nature of the city and how it had risen from the swamps but is somehow still very much part of the swamps. As he thinks, he remembers attending a lavish party, he compares the various factions within the city to elements of the swamp. The reeds are the most important and strongest. The politicians are the reeds.

One of the councillors, Carretero (José Ángel Egido), is accused of fraud and is all over the media. Q goes to visit his brother, Nacho (Raúl Prieto). Nacho is playing a video game and his home is for sale. He is having money problems. The brothers are casual towards one another. Nacho switches off the game and goes to get them both a beer.

On the television, a news broadcast shows Carretero been accosted by a group of journalists. Q asks his brother what is he to do if he pulled over by the police on the motorbike he bought off of him since he does not have the papers. Nacho jokes that he is a writer and would be able to come up with something.

On the news, Carretero denies any wrongdoing, insisting he has to get to a lecture he is giving at the university. At the university, Fran (Àlex Monner), walks into Carretero’s lecture. Covered in tattoos and street casual, he looks nothing like the other similarly aged students in the classroom. As the class ends, Fran approaches Carretero.

He gives Carretero a new phone. A burner. He is to use that to contact them if he needs to from now on. Carretero plays squash and then locks some documents in a locker at the gym. He goes to his car and is shocked unconscious and kidnapped. He wakes up in a dingy bathroom. Carretero shouts for attention, trying to find out where he is being held and by whom.

He is being held in a remote farmhouse. He hears his mobile ringing outside of the bathroom and realises there is someone else in the house. Carretero warns his unknown kidnapper that he is a very important person and people will be looking for him. Outside of the bathroom, Q sits silently listening to his rant.

Falconetti (Nacho Fresneda) sits in his car. He watches a vagrant drug addict who knocks on a door. A large black man (Lamzo) opens the door, takes some money off of him and gives him some stash. Falconetti grabs a crowbar and approaches the door. He knocks on the door.

As the same man opens the door he hits him with the crowbar, knocking him to the floor. Inside the door, he is in a small garage, another black man (Thimbo Samb) tries to grab a gun. Falconetti smashes his hand. He hits the first man in the head again to stop him screaming. He checks out the drug operation. A pours petrol around the setup and all over the building. He torches the building and the men.

Falconetti goes into a small cafe. He is there to see the boss. Around the back of the cafe, he meets La Puri (Carmina Barrios), the boss. He tells her can’t find Carretero but the blacks have been sorted out. La Puri sends Sara (Zaira Romero) to tell Fran to go and find Carretero. At the farmhouse, Carretero continues to shout at a silent, unseen Q.

Q goes to see his brother again. They both own the farmhouse and Nacho tells him that he has received an offer for it. Q, much to Nacho’s displeasure, does not want to sell it. It helps him with his writing. He returns to the farmhouse. He writes what he imagines Carretero might say to himself whilst locked up in the bathroom.

He kills Carretero and cuts up his body, disposing of it in the swamplands around the farmhouse. He takes the key to the gym locker. Falconetti finds Carretero’s car and has it stripped down to try and find clues as to his whereabouts.

Ricardo (Enric Benavent), the police commissioner, goes and sees congresswoman, Isabel (Maite Sandoval) to tell her about the missing Carretero. She tells him that they need to keep the news out of the press. She sends someone to see La Puri, thinking that she might know what has happened to Carretero. She tells him that she has no idea where he is and is also looking for him.

They are worried about Carretero talking to the press or during his trial. La Puri wants all the businesses up and running. She will take care of Carretero. Reports of Carretero’s non-appearance begin to make the news but they are saying he is away. Q calls his office to speak to him. They tell him that he is away.

Q heads to the university that he works at and sees that his car is gone. A vagrant takes his number plate, seeing him looking at the parking space. Q goes to the gym and finds the file that Carretero had in his locker. He finds a USB and various papers. It lists multiple businesses in Valencia. He checks out some of the businesses but none of them seems to be particularly profitable or even viable. He works out that they are all part of a front for the cartel.

Falconetti goes to see the vagrant and gets given the bike’s number plate. He sees La Puri the next day. She is worried about the whole situation and voices her concerns. She tells Falconetti to check out the number plate. He goes to the traffic department and gets the details of the number plate.

The bike is still registered to Nacho, so Falconetti takes his crowbar and visits Nacho. He asks him where Carretero is. Nacho tells him he does not know him. Falconetti smashes him in the leg. As he chokes him he tells him he is going to kill his daughter. Nacho fights back almost killing Falconetti. Falconetti is forced to pull out a gun and kills Nacho.

La Puri comes and sees an injured Falconetti. She tells him she is going to take care of everything. The next day, she goes and speaks to Isabel. She tells her that none of her people are going to take the fall for Nacho’s death. Isabel has a different plan.

They cover up Nacho’s murder, selling it as a break-in. Isabel double-crosses La Puri, sending SWAT teams to arrest her and Falconetti. Falconetti is not at home. The police grab La Puri and find a lot of laundered money in her walls.

Falconetti finds the farmhouse. He tries to sneak up on Q but fails. He hears him upstairs and, crowbar in hand, goes to meet him. Q faces him from the top of there stairs, a shotgun trained on him. Falconetti misreads Q’s hesitation as fear and tries to rush him. Q shoots him dead. Outside the farmhouse, Fran stands frozen in fear as Q emerges from the house with the shotgun.

Q puts the shotgun by the house and walks to the end of the pier. Fran takes up the gun and points it at him. A shot goes off. Q finishes writing puts on his jacket and leaves his home. The end.

The Silence of the Marsh is quite underwhelming. Starring Pedro Alonso – best known for his captivating performance in Netflix’s runaway success series Casa de Papel (Money Heist- not a literal translation)- as Q, The Silence of the Marsh, a title aping the more famous Thomas Harris book, Jonathan Demme film of 1991, The Silence of the Lambs, is not a patch on that classic.

Mostly it is atmosphere over story with a lot of oblique references to possible goings-on but no clear story or premise. The central story of him being a writer is lost once the police and drugs angle is introduced. As well as the nod to Lambs, there is also a bit of American Psycho with one not entirely sure whether Q is actually killing people or if it is his fertile imagination.

The actors are very strong throughout the film and the characters are well defined. Directed by Marc Vigil, the film looks good and is nicely directed, the flow, visually, very good. The screenplay by Carlos de Pando and Sara Antuña, from a book by Juanjo Braulio, is good in parts but leaves out too much information.

Truth be told, Alonso’s Q does not really drive the film at all and that is the problem. He kidnaps Carretero but seems to have done so without reason. He finds the ledger that informs him of the money laundering but, once again, takes it without reason. We know he is a celebrated writer but as his only proper interaction is with his brother, we do not find out anything else about him.

I suspect that the film is supposed to be a little ambiguous but there is simply too little exposition – something I rarely complain about – for the story to work. At ninety-minutes long, The Silence of the Marsh is not a long film but it takes an inordinate amount of time to get going and even fifteen minutes from its conclusion is still a film that is less than the sum of its parts.

The Silence of the Marsh is not unwatchable but it is definitely disappointing, something reflected in its lowly five point three score on IMDB. I cannot, in good faith, recommend taking an hour out of your day – lockdown or not – to watch this film. Pass.

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