Staring at Strangers Review: A Lurker and his Blue Tracksuit

The 2022 Spanish-Belgian thriller, “Staring at Strangers,” adapted from iconic Valencian author Juan José Millás’s novel, “From the Shadows,” (Desde La Sombra) is an eerie tale that will linger in the air long after the end credits have rolled.

After being fired from his job of 20 years, Damián throws a tantrum (butchers a cash machine) and while being chased by his boss, he takes refuge in an armoire ready to be delivered to its new owner. Therefore, he is taken to the family that purchased the furniture, and finds himself strangely fascinated by their life, particularly by Lucía, the lonely mother.

As he decides to stay and observe their daily lives, he soon begins to intervene in secret, leading to a series of twists and turns that challenge his identity and the family’s dynamics.

Directed by Félix Viscarret and co-written by him and David Muñoz, the film features an ensemble cast, including Spanish household comedian Paco León as Damián. León delivers a strong performance especially once Damián starts sinking into „dark places”, alongside Leonor Watling, whose portrayal of Lucía is both nuanced and relatable.

Staring at Strangers

Staring at Strangers. Source: Latido

“Staring at Strangers” delves into themes of isolation, obsession, and the interconnectedness of human relationships while exploring the devaluation present in our modern world (think Damián’s comments on the late night show he is „invited” on or how the old armoire is from an era where „people knew how to build furniture”).

The film boasts beautiful cinematography, with scenes like Damián reading in solace, and a soundtrack that adds to its peculiar charm the story.

Despite some inconsistencies, the film showcases sensitivity to the complexity of human relationships, identity and subtle humor that resonates with audiences. The early scenes, shown from Damián’s perspective, create an intriguing introduction and I wish Viscarret would have stuck with it for longer. Seeing only what he sees from his hiding places, or how his brain associates familiar sounds (e.g. coffee maker, shower) with objects is risky but exciting filmmaking.

Altogether, „Staring at Strangers” is a thought-provoking watch, with a dose of metaphysical and psychological intrigue. This medium-budget foreign film proves that it can compete with, and even surpass, studio movies when given a chance.

„Staring at Strangers” is now available on HBO Max.

~ by Dora Endre ~