Netflix's 'The Occupant' Review: The slow burner overstays its welcome but is a must-watch for the direction

Written and directed by the perceptive duo David Pastor and Alex Pastor, 'The Occupant' is undoubtedly a well-directed movie


                            Netflix's 'The Occupant' Review: The slow burner overstays its welcome but is a must-watch for the direction
(Quim Vives/ Netflix)

Spoilers for Netflix's 'The Occupant'

Netflix's Spanish thriller 'The Occupant' begins with a dreamy sequence of a happy family. A young, virile father returns to a hard-earned, meticulously designed house after a long day of work ecstatic to see his wife and child. The nuclear family is brimming with happiness and prosperity, content with their lives. 

The camera, however, zooms out to show it is an advertisement for an appliance company. "The life you deserve," appears the tagline.

Javier Muñoz (Javier Gutiérrez) is interviewing for a position in an advertising agency. It is not as big as the firm where he was employed earlier. But unemployed now, Javier is desperate to find some work.

He is struggling under the monetary pressures of being a has-been. The rent is running high, the family can no longer afford the lavish apartment they live in, they can no longer afford to pay the maid, Javier is pressed by his wife Marga (Ruth Díaz) to sell their car.

Interviews do not work out and eventually, a reluctant Javier moves out of their extravagant apartment and into a small flat on the outskirts of the city. He despises the place — from the gray of the walls to the dripping tap in the kitchen — he absolutely abhors that life has brought him at a standstill. 

When he finds out that he still has the keys to his old apartment, he decides to take charge of his own life. 

Javier tried tirelessly to get his life back on track. From walking out of multiple interviews empty-handed to being repeatedly told that he is over-qualified for the job, he has heard it all. So Javier, being the advertising executive that he is, decides to pen down the script of his own life — and he is not going to stop before it is picture-perfect. 

At first glance, Tomás (Mario Casas) and Lara (Bruna Cusí) seem like a happy couple themselves — perhaps even straight from the very ad that Javier made once upon a time. Their daughter learns rhythmic ballerina and together they live a very content life.

However, Tomás and Lara's marriage is riddled with its own problems. Tomás is a recovering alcoholic, who decided to get better when he endangered the lives of his wife and daughter in a drunk and drive case.

He is diligently on the road to recovery going to AA meetings every week. Javier uses this information to jeopardize Tomás' life. And how does he know all this? From the many visits to Tomás' home!

A still from 'The Occupant' (Netflix)

He goes to Tomás' AA meetings and befriends him, getting closer to him and finding out about his everyday life.  A particular conversation the two have early in their soon-to-be-doomed friendship is about finding out your weaknesses and not letting them bring you down.

By the end, Javier almost seems to have used the lessons he picked up from this conversation to ruin Tomás' life. 

Tomás thinks he is making a friend out of the sorry loser Javier, who is portraying himself as an alcoholic divorcee whose wife and daughter have left him. As their friendship deepens, so does Javier's encroachment over Tomás' life, eventually leading to his doom.

Javier feeds on Tomás' good nature and manipulates not only him but also his wife into giving him exactly what he wants. 

Written and directed by the perceptive duo David Pastor and  Àlex Pastor, 'The Occupant' is undoubtedly a well-directed movie. An ominous soundtrack accompanies Javier's sinister plans to drive home the point that this man is going to stop at nothing.

Still, the movie runs longer than it is welcome. At 1 hour 45 minutes, 'The Occupant' overstays its welcome but is a must-watch for the direction.

The movie closes as it opens. In the end, Javier manages to build the picture-perfect life that he had advertised. Javier Gutiérrez is remarkable as the obsessive Javier, his short stature standing tall and mighty over that of Mario Casas.

In their scenes together, the two are often displayed as mirror images of one — reversible. 'The Occupant' is currently streaming on Netflix.

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