The Paramedic – (Netflix) review

Brief synopsis: a narcissistic paramedic, who is struggling to have a child with his partner, life is changed when he is in a tragic traffic accident that results in him ending up in a wheelchair. Jealously and paranoia see him acting in a most dangerous and unpredictable fashion. 

Is it any good?: The Paramedic (El Practicante – in Spanish, original title), is a moderately entertaining chiller that is let down a little by being more atmosphere than execution. The acting is top class and the film looks beautiful and the story and editing are done in such a way not to insult the audience intelligence but, unfortunately, other elements of the film do not live up to the promise. 

Spoiler territory: arriving at the scene of a car crash, paramedics Ángel (Mario Casas) and Ricardo (Guillermo Pfening) tend quickly to the wounded and distressed. As Ángel helps a woman from the wreckage of her car, Ricardo goes to check on the passengers of the other car which is flipped on its roof. 

As other paramedics arrive to help, Ángel uses the confusion and activity to steal a pair of sunglasses from one of the cars in the crash. Later, Ángel is aggressively making love to his girlfriend, Vane (Déborah François), before she leaves for work. After she leaves, he goes and hides the sunglasses he took from the scene of the crash in a cupboard. 

Back at work, Ángel and Ricardo take a call. When they arrive at the address, they find an old woman in bed. Ricardo checks her pulse. She is already dead. He calls the coroner, leaving the room as he makes the call. Ángel goes through the woman’s valuables in the room. 

Later, Ángel meets Fermín (Raúl Jiminéz) and looks to sell the items he found in the room. He returns home and is in a foul mood after stepping in the mess created by their neighbour, Vicente’s (Celso Bagallo) dog. Vane tells him that her period has come, meaning she is not pregnant. He suggests she see a gynaecologist. Vane says the problem might not be with her. Ángel, his manhood wounded, says the problem could be psychological. 

He goes to see a doctor the next day. He finds out that he has a low sperm count and getting someone pregnant would be difficult for him. He does not tell Vane. Back at home, whilst Vane is in the shower, Ángel goes through her phone. 

At the hospital, Ángel gets drugs from Andrés (Pol Monen), a young doctor he knows. He and Ricardo go to another accident. They pick up an injured young man and Ricardo is driving as Ángel tends to the man. The man begins to convulse, distracting Ricardo. As Ángel tries to stabilise him, the ambulance gets hit by a truck. 

Ángel ends up wheelchair-bound. Their relationship already strained, Ángel’s condition pushes his jealously and paranoia to another level. As he tries to adapt to his need life, Ángel comes across a spy app that he can use to track Vane. The relationship continues to be strained. 

Ricardo comes to visit Ángel. Ángel is not happy to see him, feeling that it is his fault that he is in a wheelchair. Later, before Vane leave for work, Ángel asks her to go and get him some ice cream. Whilst she is out, he installs the spy app on her phone. 

He bumps into his neighbour, Vicente. Vicente is walking his dog. Ángel remarks how much the dog barks at night. Vicente tells him that he goes to see his sick wife in hospital at night and has to leave the dog alone. Later, in the evening, Vane is nervous as she tells Ángel about a possible work placement. 

Ángel wants to know what they will live on if she is earning less. He is not at all supportive of her pursuit of a veterinary career. Vane goes to work. He uses the spyware to watch her at work. During there night, Ángel is awoken by pain from his injuries. He tries to call Vane but the calls go to her voicemail. 

He finds some painkillers in the kitchen and takes a couple. He hides the rest of them. When Vane returns from work in the morning, he accuses her of leaving him without pain medication. She swears that there were painkillers in the kitchen. Later in the day, he threads needles into a raw piece of meat. 

Ángel goes to the park where Vicente walks his dog. He feeds the meat to the dog. Back in the apartment, Ángel listens in on a conversation Vane is having with a friend. She tells her friend how difficult her relationship is becoming and how she is not sure she can stand much more. Spurred by the conversation, Ángel tries to woo Vane and cooks a romantic dinner for them both. 

He tells her that he will support her dream of becoming a vet. They will also try even harder to have a baby. They make love. Afterwards, Ángel is in the shower and Vane hears his computer chiming. She goes and checks his screen and discovers the spyware. She packs her belongings and leaves. 

Some months later, Ángel decides to go and spy on Vane again. He waits outside of her workplace and sees Ricardo come to pick her up. He follows them and sees them go to a baby shop. They are having a baby. ÁNGEL goes to see Andres and gets some drugs. 

The next day, Ángel goes to meet Vane. He tells her she was right to leave him and intimates that he is going to end his life. She walks him back to his apartment. Retells her that he packed up her belongings and she can collect them. As she is distracted, looking for her things, he tranquillises her. 

Vane wakes up tied to a bed and gagged. Ángel puts on loud music to drown out her muffled cries. He goes and finds her mobile. She has multiple messages from Ricardo on it. He texts Ricardo a message from the phone telling him that she has left him. He throws the phone into a river. Back in the apartment, Ángel tells Vane he saw Ricardo and knows they are having a child. She begs him to release her and starts screaming again. He gags her and tranquillises her again. 

Vicente comes and complains about the music. Ángel gives him short shrift, telling him he had to put up with his dog for months. Vicente says he heard screaming from his apartment. Ángel lies, saying it was a prostitute. 

Ricardo seeks out Ángel. He tells him that Vane is missing and that they are together. Ángel tells him he has not seen her. Back with Vane, she finds that Ángel has given her an epidural making her legs stop working. Ángel receives a voicemail from a desperate Ricardo. He is going to call the police. 

During dinner, Vane smashes a bottle into Ángel’s head and tries to escape, screaming for help. He recovers and tranquillises her again but not before her screaming alerts Vicente. The neighbour comes looking for her. Forced to allow the persistent Vicente into his home, Ángel stabs him to death. He calls Fermin and pays him to get rid of the body. 

The police come to see Ángel. Ricardo has reported Vane missing and he used to live with her. Ángel tells them that she told him she was returning to France. Ángel had used Vane’s keys to go and kill Ricardo, making it look like a drug-related death. 

Ángel continues to plan a life with Vane and Ricardo’s baby, going so far as to tell her he will marry her when he trusts her. Vane gets hold of nail clippers whilst in the bathroom. Later in the night, Ángel goes to the pharmacy to get some medication for Vane, thinking she is sick. She takes the opportunity to escape her bonds using the nail clippers. 

Her legs still weakened from the drugs, she struggles to get out of the room he has her locked in, dragging her self to the door and using a screwdriver to break the lock. She gets out of the apartment and is making her way out when Ángel returns. Vane stumbles to the stairs and falls down them. Ángel goes after her, throw himself down the stairs. The two fight. She stabs him with the screwdriver and pushes him into the stairwell. He falls several storeys, to the ground. 

Sometime later, a tetraplegic Ángel is in a hospital. A heavily pregnant Vane comes to get him. She tells him, somewhat chillingly, that she is going to look after him. The end. 

Final thoughts: The Paramedic is an okay chiller mostly because of Casas’ central performance. He oozes unease throughout the entire film, an air of disdain for all around him never far from his face. François’ Vane is perfectly cast, a woman in the wrong relationship even before the accident pushes Ángel further into his neurosis. 

Written by David Desola, Héctor Hernández Vicens and Carles Torras, with Torras also on directing duties, The Paramedic does at least treat its viewers like adults. After the accident, we move straight to the difficulties of Ángel’s new reality. There are no scenes of him being told he is not going to walk again or discovering he has to give up his work. They are not necessary. 

Torras lets the actors do the work and they reward him with great performances. The strength of Cosas’ performance certainly helps with covering the script’s deficiencies and shortcomings, with some characters not given enough screen time to allow one to realise their necessity to the plot. 

The film does move quite quickly through its ninety-four-minute runtime and the sense of foreboding builds quite nicely as Ángel implements his mad plan. The only thing that lets the film down is the slightly psychological ending, with Vane deciding to become a sort of jailer/helper for the tetraplegic Ángel. It seemed, to me at least, as though she was setting herself up for a lifetime of punishment. With an impending birth as well to contend with. 

The Paramedic is, nonetheless, quite entertaining and well made. It worth a watch for the two central performances and the almost great story. 

Look Away – review (Netflix)

Maria Brennan (India Eisley) is an awkward, unpopular, seventeen-year-old high school student, who lives with her parents; plastic surgeon, Dan (Jason Isaacs) and her mother, a pill dependent, mildly depressed, Amy (Mira Sorvino). Aesthetics matter a lot to Dan.

Maria meets her best friend, Lily (Penelope Mitchell) and they both take the bus to school. On the bus, Lilly, who is popular, and is the girlfriend of Sean (Harrison Gilbertson), a popular jock, makes her way to a seat. One of the boys, Mark John C MacDonald) blocks Maria’s path.

At school, it is quickly evident that Maria is seen as an oddball. The two girls sit by the ice rink watching Sean play hockey. Lilly, herself a good skater, goes onto the ice, interrupting the game to kiss him. Maria watches on enviously.

At home, as the family have dinner, Amy tries to encourage Maria to go to the winter prom. She does not want to go. Amy persists, saying it will be good for her. Maria leaves the table, not wanting to discuss the subject anymore. At the table, Amy and Dan argue. Dan says Maria has no friends, no boyfriends, and she does not eat.

Dan believes their daughter is psychologically messed up. Maria overhears the discourse. In tears, she goes to the bathroom. Whilst in the bathroom, she finds an old sonogram photo showing two babies in the womb.

Later, as she is pleasuring herself by the mirror, she is shocked as she sees her reflection watching her. She goes back to the mirror and wipes off the condensation. Her reflection is watching her. She runs from the bathroom screaming.

At breakfast, Maria tries to tell her father about the incident, but he interrupts her, telling her she looks awful, and that she needs to put some makeup on. Maria does as she is told.

I am happy. Really.

Lily picks her up for school in her new Porsche. They pick up Sean on the way. Maria watches on as the two lovebirds greet. She follows behind as they walk into school. Mark trips her up, amusing his friends at her expense. Sean comes to her defense.

Back at home, Maria returns to the bathroom. She talks to the reflection, convinced it is in her head. The reflection talks back, telling her she can help her, she can take away her sadness.

She tells her, her name is Airam. The next morning, Maria tells her parents she is going to the winter prom. At school, she tells Lily she cannot meet her for a skating lesson as she is meeting up with her father for lunch.

Maria goes to her father’s practice. As she waits in the reception, she sees a woman, Claudia (Michal Bernstein), who greets her father warmly as he comes out of one of his appointments. She does not have an appointment, but it is obvious that she has a relationship with Dan.

Maria and Dan go to the cinema and sit uncomfortably, watching a film. Outside the cinema, they run into Mark and some of his friends. He introduces himself to Dan. As they drive home, Dan says to Maria that he wants to give her her birthday present a little early. She is to come by the office to get it.

Maria talks to Airam again. Airam tells her that her father is just embarrassed by her. Maria is convinced he is going to buy her a car. The next day she goes to see him. He tells her that he can fix her ears and slim her nose down. He also says he will improve her lips. That is his gift. He asks her if she wants that. She agrees.

Maria talks to Airam. Amy comes into the bathroom wanting to know who she is talking to. Maria says no one. Amy tries to tell Dan about Maria, he says that it is obvious that their daughter has problems. Dan gives Amy a pill to calm her down, even as she tries to refuse it.

I’m a nice guy. 

Lily takes Maria skating on a remote lake, saying she is going to teach her. When on the ice, Lily lets go and Maria falls over. As she begs Lilly to help her, Lily tells her that she knows she likes Sean. She skates off leaving Maria struggling on the ice.

Back in the bathroom, Airam tells her that she is the only one she can trust. Airam tells her to kiss her in the mirror. As Maria is about to, she is called by her mother. Amy has got her a dress for the winter prom.

At the prom, which is on ice, Sean brings Maria onto the ice. They skate a bit, but then Lily turns up watching on jealously. Maria sees her watching and falls to the ice. Sean is about to help her up, but Lily takes him away.

Mark offers his hand. Maria takes his offer, and he drags her along the ice as everyone laughs at her. Maria goes to the bathroom. She swaps places with Airam. Amy remembers giving birth, how something was wrong. The next morning, Amy asks how the prom was. Airam tells her it was great.

At school, Airam embarrasses Mark as he goads her about the prom. She then confronts Lily about how she felt about what happened at the prom. She tells her that she still wants to learn how to skate. Airam learns how to skate on her own, practicing daily in secret.

Airam sets up an appointment for her father with Claudia. She also arranges for her mother to be at the office at the same time. Amy turns up at the office and meets the sexualised Claudia in the lift. Claudia tells her she is going to see Doctor Brennan.

Airam asks why her father is not at dinner. Amy tries to tell her that he is working late. Airam challenges her to tell the truth, to say she is sick of him playing around. Amy slaps her. Airam speaks to Maria, who is now trapped in the mirror. Maria wants to know why she is so mean to their mum. Airam says that they must all pay.

Mark follows Airam to the showers. She tricks him, dislocating his knee with a hockey stick. Airam and Lily go skating. Lily quickly realises that Airam, who she thinks is Maria, can skate. Lily challenges her, doing various skating moves for her to copy. Airam does most of the moves, falling on the final one. Lily begins to skate off and Airam pursues her. Lilly loses her footing and crashes into a barrier, breaking her neck.

come to me…

Maria wants to know why she is doing what she is doing. She wants to escape the glass. The police are investigating the circumstances of Lily’s death. Airam wants to avoid them. Sean comforts Airam at the funeral. He calls her later in the evening, and she goes and sees him and seduces him.

Airam goes to lunch with Dan and starts acting up. He tells her off for being juvenile. She continues her relationship with Sean, proving an unwelcome distraction to his schooling. They go to a motel. Sean gets a call from his mother.

The police want to talk to him and Airam. He tells her that the police are looking for them. Airam says she has no interest in talking to them. Sean wants to go. Airam refuses. She hits him with a bottle, killing him.

Amy dreams of a baby crying. Dan is saying there is no point to one of the babies. She’s deformed. Airam goes to see her father. She is drunk and nauseous. He gives her some water, but she spills it on herself.

He goes to get her some tissue paper and she strips off. He tells her to get dressed. She takes her skirt off. She asks him if he thinks she is beautiful. Would he love her if she was deformed? He tries to give her a lab coat to wear. She cuts his throat with a scalpel, killing him.

Airam tries to find Maria, talking to her reflection, but there is no reply. She leaves her father’s office and returns home. She goes and lays down with her mother. The end.

Look Away is a supernatural horror/thriller that borrows from a lot of films. There is the ostracisation found in Carrie, the secret, unseen confidant found in Fight Club, a person who can only be freed by another like in so many fairy tales, and the teen angst found in a multitude of teen set drama films.

Written and directed by Assaf Bernstein, Look Away is a watchable, though not unmissable, thriller. Starring the full-lipped India Eisley as Maria/Airam—a lazy semordnilap—she is good as both the awkward, confident Maria and the darker, homicidal Airam.

Ably helped by some technical wizardry, she talks to her reflection convincingly. Isaacs as Dan and Sorvino as Amy are both poorly served by slightly underwritten characters, with flashbacks that allude to a complicated birth, and Dan’s cold-heartedness toward a less than perfect baby, not really helping to fill in the blanks.

Mitchell’s Lily is a good character, but, once again, she is too easily put in the ’awful college pretty girl’ box. In fact, with the exception of Gilbertson’s Sean, every other teen character is mean or a bully.

With her father lacking emotional nous, and her mother too weak to defend her, Maria’s only solace, from her seemingly bleak existence, is her psychopathic twin.

The film suffers slightly from being mostly build-up, Airam not entering the fray until forty-five minutes into proceedings. Unlike in the aforementioned Carrie, where, after a relentless build-up, there is a stunning and tragic pay-off, Look Away does not really have one. Maria’s chief antagonist in the film is Mark, but once she dislocates his knee, his story finishes.

Though she scares Lily into tripping and dying, Airam does not actually kill her. She kills Sean in a moment of rage and immediately regrets it. Her only deliberate act is to kill her father out of anger built up over years of rejection, but as Dan thinks she is Maria, that too is a hollow victory.

The final scene, where we see Airam lying with her mother, is flipped so we see the same image reversed. It flips back and forth, the speed increasing until both daughters are seen lying with their mother. It is a cryptic ending, and because of the sparse backstory, a little unsatisfying.

With that all said, Look Away is a moderately enjoyable film, with some good moments and quite good performances from the cast. At one hundred and three minutes, it does not feel overly long and moves along at a good pace. Look Away is worth a watch if you have not got much else going on, and want a silly/serious watch.