November 23, 2020 Ropes (Movie Review)
Tension can be built up in any number of ways in a story, but what makes a successful Thriller is the strength of the characters and their ability to combat danger. Such is the case with Ropes which was released digitally in the UK on November 19, 2020 via Smart Dog Productions.
Also known as Prey and its original Spanish title, Cuerdas, it is the feature-length debut of Director José Luis Montesinos, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Premiering at film festivals in Spain, as well as Manchester’s Grimmfest, Ropes focuses on a young woman named Elena (Paula del Río: Retribution 2015, Gun City 2018), a quadriplegic confined to a motorized wheelchair and can move nothing but her lower-right arm. All she has are her father, Miguel (Miguel Ángel Jenner: Secuestro 2016, The Power of Silence 2017), and the support dog he bought for her, a gorgeous shepherd named Athos. However, things soon go awry and Elena finds herself alone against a rabid but very smart dog.
There will be inevitable comparisons to the 1981 Stephen King Classic Cujo, but aside from a rabid dog, it is not similar and the characters in Ropes have completely different circumstances and motivations. Elena, we learn, is newly paralyzed, having been at the wheel of a horrific crash that also claimed the life of her sister, Vera. Elena is absolutely miserable at the start of the film and you cannot blame her. She harbors a serious case of survivor’s guilt, is horribly depressed, and has a bad relationship with her father, whose hasty attempts to repair their relationship amid the family tragedy are not received well by his daughter.
His actions are admirable, though. The film’s namesake comes from the ropes he has tied around all door handles and drawers in the old house where they live, dozens of them, to help his daughter get around and make her life as easy as he can. Elena does not want any of his help, the ropes or the dog, and says she wants to die, but even though her life is not what it once was, when it is put in jeopardy she will have to find the strength to live and find new meaning.
The tension in Ropes is palpable throughout, and Athos is one of the more memorable animal actors in recent memory. He seems to be an almost Michael Myers-type danger – quiet, stealthy, and relentless. It is hard to hate a villain that is not evil, but literally insane from a disease. The performances of the human cast are excellent. Paula del Río plays Elena and Vera. She is very believable in a performance that requires a lot; from bitter, spiteful misery to determined survivor, Elena is a character that the audience might not like at first, but will certainly get behind exactly when the filmmakers want them to. Additionally, Miguel is played by veteran Miguel Ángel Jenner, who is not in the film for very long, but is highly effective as the repentant father trying to reconnect with his daughter with the time he has left. He knows he has not been an ideal father, but his love for his family is strong.
Overall, Ropes is a solid Thriller package that has good writing, excellent performances, and great tension. As the story unfolds, we learn about the family’s past as well as the circumstances that led up to the crash. We also learn of the bond the sisters shared. Elena will have to confront her inner demons, including the spectre of her deceased sister, all while trying to stay away from Athos, who is sadly infected with rabies after a bat bite.
Elena goes through a gamut of emotions and serious danger, but like everything else in the film, you will learn that things go deeper than they might expect. One of the best foreign Thrillers of 2020, Cryptic Rock gives Ropes 4 out of 5 stars.