Sundance 2018: ‘Time Share’ Is Both Playful and Painfully Serious

Not all vacations are created equal.

It’s a given that we only ever know what we’re thinking and feeling and have no real clue what’s happening in someone else’s mind and heart. Their words and facial expressions matter, but neither guarantee the truth behind the eyes. We often hide that truth from those around us, but sometimes things reach a point where that’s no longer an option. Welcome to Time Share.

Pedro (Luis Gerardo Mendez) has brought his wife Eva (Cassandra Ciangherotti) and young son to paradise. Well, “paradise” is in the eyes of the beholder, but all of the pamphlets and pitches claim it to be true just as the deal offered seemed too good to be true. They arrive with smiles on their faces, but their first night is interrupted with the revelation that their condo has been double-booked. With no other option, Pedro’s family is forced to share their vacation spot with the loud and overly friendly Abel (Andres Almeida) and his family. Pedro tries to put on a brave face, but the situation is a pressure cooker.

Elsewhere at the resort are a married couple who both work for the company, newly bought by an American conglomerate who’ve sent down a sketchy sales manager named Tom (RJ Mitte) to ensure everyone’s in line. The couple, Andres (Miguel Rodarte) and Gloria (Montserrat Maranon), are facing their own struggles as his anxiety and her ambition see them moving in opposite directions. Tellingly, their small home sits just outside and in the shadows of the resort’s towering central building.

Director/co-writer Sebastian Hofmann‘s Time Share is a blackly-comic slam against capitalism’s less savory aspects, but more than that the film acknowledges our own individual culpability towards its insidious crawl into our lives. Progress and a corporate lust for profit can be damaging, but we’re too often enablers of our own destruction.

The two men, Pedro and Andres, are the main focus here, as the illusions they’ve subscribed to crumble over the course of a few days. For Pedro the vacation was meant to be both a fun time and evidence of his own manly ability to provide, but his cheap deal has revealed its limitations just his ability to fix the situation does the same. He not so slowly comes to believe both the resort and Abel’s intrusion are meant to drive a wedge between him and his family, and each new slight magnifies his simmering anger. The broken nose doesn’t help either. Andres suspects something similar as his wife’s star rises and his stagnates in a sea of depression and suspicion.

Both Mendez and Rodarte craft characters who quickly earn our sympathies only to see them drain away as a result of their actions. The place gets the better of them — they let the place get the better of them — and they’re left willing victims of both a seemingly unstoppable machine and their own minds. The frustrations they face eek out on occasion to become frustrations for viewers too, though, and Pedro in particular teases the kind of character we’ve seen a dozen times before, typically played by Ben Stiller. Every possible misfortune seems to target him, and at a certain point you’re left shaking your head and on the verge of giving up on the guy. It gives the film something of a drag at times, but happily it recovers most of its footing.

The film draws a fine contrast between the characters’ experiences and viewers’ sensory reception to the resort and its antics. Cinematographer Matias Penachino captures the orderly beauty and manicured landscape while pressing it against a growing sense of dread, and composer Giorgio Giampa sets a loose tone early on that shifts as our put upon heroes grow more suspicious and defeated.

Time Share sets up something of a David vs Goliath tale, in theory, but it acknowledges that nothing is as simple as it seems. Choices are made and characters put themselves in the crosshairs willingly with the hope that if they play their cards right they’ll soon be sitting on the other side of the barrel. It’s a heavy commentary told with laughs, frustrations, and the promise of paradise just out of reach.

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