La Dosis (The Dose)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 08/18/20 13:40:19

"Powerful enough to do the job, small enough to maybe sneak past."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENING AT THE 2020 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: One keeps expecting "La Dosis" ("The Dose") to move up to another gear at some point, but it never quite does so, at least to the extent that one might expect. That's not a criticism; it's an acknowledgment that there are ways that society can provide cover to darkness, and one cannot necessarily wait for the big moment to make things better.

It begins with a comatose patient in an Argentine intensive care unit entering cardiac arrest; the doctors give in after three attempts to restart her heart fail, but nurse Marcos Roldán (Carlos Partluppi) seems to sense she is not gone yet, and applies the paddles himself. She is revived, but still unconscious, and the hospital is loath to spend more resources on this old woman who is apparently without family, prompting Marcos to steal something from the supply closet and inject her with it. Meanwhile, some changes are happening in the department - the area supervisor is ailing, and co-worker Noelia (Lorena Vega) hints that it's already been decided that the job is Marcos's. There's also a new nurse in the ICU's rotation, Gabriel Santos (Ignacio Rogers), handsome and cheerful and happy to give the oft-invisible Marcos a ride home. He may, however, be a little too sympathetic with regards to the mercy Marcos showed that old lady.

One doesn't have to know much about the health-care system in Argentina to guess that Clinica Nagal is maybe not the area's best hospital, but the filmmakers don't vilify it. They show how cramped this ICU is, and it looks kind of dark and dingy compared to the other hospital that Marcos has occasion to visit, with its clean white walls and private rooms, but if this is a lesser hospital for the city's lower classes, it doesn't seem to have disdain for its patients; the doctors and nurses and the rest are mostly professional, dedicated caregivers. Still, you can see how it's a place where things may fall through the cracks, with resources stretched thin. It's not really about how the lower-class patients or staff are taken advantage of in the way that some movies might be, but it's not a factor that can be entirely discounted.

That plays into how Carlos Portaluppi portrays Marcos; Portaluppi is a big guy and he gives Marcos the sort of gait where he lumbers through a scene but doesn't seem particularly burdened by his size or slovenly. Every scene emphasizes how he's conscientious and good-intentioned but not perfect, and Portaluppi always seems to manage to find the spot where the viewer likes Marcos as a character and sympathizes when he's in an uncomfortable situation but instinctively understands why he's alone and not particularly beloved by his co-workers.

Ignacio Rogers, then, is playing the flip side of that coin, making Gabriel ingratiating and maybe a bit over-eager, and the audience can sense how, even beyond how Gabriel is overstepping his bounds, there's something about him that just rubs Marcos the wrong way, but it's never entirely clear if it's more from immaturity or something a little more deliberate. Rogers makes nice little adjustments as Marcos starts to see Gabriel as more malevolent, but just as much as he has to, so that it doesn't seem odd that nobody else is picking up on something.

That makes the finale interesting - writer/director Martin Kraut knows that some table-turning and otherwise switching things up has to happen, and there's a bit of a stretch where it feels kind of predictable, like the audience has seen all these moves before and are waiting for the really new bit, which doesn't really come. That's not to say that he doesn't create an exciting climax - the big confrontation is well-done and always feels like it could jump in any direction, but there's a moment or two when he pulls back when he might normally push forward, and it could briefly feels anticlimactic. But there's something to that, especially combined with a brief epilogue. He seems to suggest that you can't defeat evil with a single coup de grace, that instead you've got to build and remember to show kindness whenever you can.

It's not the sort of ending that thrillers naturally lead to, even if the whole movie is deliberately a bit muted. But it's honest in how it resolves the situation, and sometimes that difference in attitude can seem just as important as complete catharsis.

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