Hierro (2009)

Lost in translation

Single mother Maria (Elena Anaya) is enjoying a day out with her young son Diego (Kaiet Rodriguez) visiting El Hierro, the most isolated of the Canary Islands. Things take a tragic turn, however, when she dozes off on the ferry and awakes to find Diego missing, catapulting her into a nightmare from which there is no awakening. For six months she waits desperately for answers and, when a body is finally found, Maria returns to Hierro. When she arrives, however, she makes a shocking discovery and that, combined with with the bizarre behaviour of the locals, convinces Maria that foul play may be involved. Determined to uncover the truth, Maria embarks on her own investigation that has devastating repurcussions…

In recent years, Spanish-language genre films have made a real impact on international audiences, with movies like JA Bayona’s The Orphanage, Rigoberto Castaneda’s KM 31 and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth proving to be head and shoulders above their Hollywood counterparts, so it’s fair to say that Gabe Ibanez had somevery big shoes to fill with his directorial debut. But, sadly, even though Hierro is an effective chiller in theory, in reality it never really fuels the narratie fires.

The main problem is that the story really has nowhere to go, and so it all plays out in obvious and – at times – mundane style. The ending is so obvious, and so signposted that it’s impossible to build the sense of atmosphere or dread that such a film needs to survive. Lead actress Anaya does what she can with the material, bringing a pervading sense of horror to the bereft Maria, but is left with little room to manouevre in a script that’s clunky and contrived.

Where redemption is to be found, however, is with cinematographer Alejandro Martinez’s exquisite visuals. The landscapes are absolutely stunning to behold, the island a windswept, desolate and beautiful place of solitude, reflecting both Maria’s plight and her increasingly unstable state of mind. Ultimately, though, Hierro is an example of cinematic style over substance, a great idea that was simply lost in translation from concept to screen.

2.5 stars

Elena Anaya, Kaiet Rodriguez
Gabe Ibanez
Screenplay Javier Gullon
Certificate 12A
Distributor Optimum Releasing
Running Time 1hr 29mins
Released June 18