After premiering at The Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 and having a limited theatrical release, The Motive is one of the many new films to hit Netflix this month. Directed by Manuel Martin Cuenca and featuring Javier Gutiérrez as the lead, The Motive tells the story of Alvaro, who is an aspiring writer desperate to find his voice, who eventually turns to manipulating his neighbors’ lives in search of inspiration for his latest novel.
While The Motive remains a drama at its core, the film acts as a quasi-thriller that’s not too different from something like Nightcrawler or Nocturnal Animals. Although Alvaro isn’t as obviously sociopathic as Lou Bloom, he still shares the desperate need to achieve something greater than himself, and the inevitable manipulation that goes along with these feelings.
Along with having very distinct elements of a thriller, the story also has qualities that can be identified as a twisted romance of sorts, with a hint of revenge thrown in . The Motive starts out with Alvaro showing up late to an awards ceremony where his wife Amanda (played by Maria Léon) is being honored for her recently published novel. Not too long after, however, their marriage hits a sharp snag, and Alvaro finds himself moved out into a new apartment and focusing on his own novel. The Motive does a lot of things right as a character study as well, and paying close attention to the set design and wardrobe will only enrich your viewing experience.
As Alvaro navigates his new life, taking private writing classes with his teacher, and spying on the lives of his neighbors around him, he quickly throws some of his more redeeming qualities out of the window in favor of some more unethical quirks. In fact, part of what makes The Motive work is how relatable Alvaro is in the beginning of the film, but what keeps you intrigued is how quickly he turns to immoral methods of finding his artistic voice. Many of us can find some empathy in watching Alvaro get frustrated and literally running in circles for inspiration, but the downward spiral of behavior is where hopefully most viewers can find some dissonance, albeit with an air of fascination.
Alvaro’s downward spiral is filled with meta references to his situation at hand, and plays on themes of creation, and acceptance to illustrate where the desperation for creative success can take you. Trying to get ahead of the story will inevitably create more distance between reality and fiction, both for Alvaro and the viewer. While Alvaro remains the central protagonist of the film, the cast is what really brings the story to life while also emphasizing qualities that make Alvaro a compelling character.
As everyone in Alvaro’s new building has a life of their own, it becomes increasingly apparent how empty and desolate Alvaro’s life has become in the quest to achieve his dream. His superintendent Portera (played by Adelfa Calvo) is a vivacious older woman with a thirst for life. Meanwhile, his neighbors Enrique and Irene (played by Tenoch Huerta, and Adriana Paz respectively) navigate their working class lifestyle while trying to raise two children.
Overall, The Motive is a satisfying, and alluring drama that not only utilizes multiple genres, but also keeps you in suspense throughout. By the time the climax of the film rolls around, you’ll be surprised at how far gone Alvaro finds himself in the name of control, and whether or not his reality yields tangible results or an ironic illusion of comfort.
The Motive is available to stream on Netflix as of August 17th, 2018. You won’t want to miss this international hit!