The Candidate (aka The Realm) opens with a chaotic, convivial scene of political colleagues at dinner, introducing the viewer to host of characters enjoying the easy decadence of their lifestyle while sowing the seeds – a comment here, a silence there – of what might lurk beneath the glamour. As tensions rise and secrets are exposed, the camera continues to track Manuel López-Vidal (Antonio de la Torre) as he navigates public and private spaces, work and home, a technique that demands that the focus of the audience matches that required of Manuel as the party’s house of cards begins to tumble.
The cinematography deserves considerable remark – the unsteady frames mirror the iPhone footage upon which much of the politicians’ downfall is built, while the use of a single camera throughout more violent scenes, along with muted and choppy audio, aligns the viewer with Manuel’s experience in the moment. The effect is all the more powerful as the film follows only the protagonist, keeping us in the dark about the conversations to which he has not been allowed access and the changing loyalties which arise during meetings from which he has been excluded. He is obliged to investigate on his own terms, and the atmosphere only becomes more urgent as the action unfolds, even as a multifaceted, complex portrayal of Manuel’s character is constructed – though a ruthless politician, unwaveringly self-interested, his affection for his wife (Mónica López) and daughter (María de Nati) appear sincere.
Co-writers Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Isabel Peña have succeeded in capturing the unrelenting panic of a crisis, channelled through the mind of a character accustomed to making difficult decisions and feeling no guilt about the consequences. The central roles of Manuel’s “friends” of convenience – especially those of party leader, Frías (Josep Maria Pou) and complicit colleague, Paco (Nacho Fresneda) – are magnificently acted, subtly exposing the hard edge running beneath ostentatious displays of loyalty and respect. The final scene, like the first, is a masterstroke, providing all that could have been lacking in two hours of non-stop action by insisting that Manuel – and the audience – pause for thought.
The Candidate is released nationwide on 2nd August 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Candidate here: