On the Fringe (Juan Diego Botto, 2022, Spain)

On the Fringe is the debut feature film by Argentine-Spanish director Juan Diego Botto. Botto had an extensive career as an actor in Spanish cinema before making this film and has also worked in plays. Fringe finds him uniting with Penelope Cruz in one of the film's starring roles. Cruz has been exploring her arthouse side lately, with Fringe following her turn in Almodovar's Parallel Mothers (2021), Official Competition (2021), and L'immensita (2021). The film also stars veteran Spanish actor Luis Tosar in the film's other major story.

Despite being set in the present, On the Fringe feels indebted to many films of the early 2000s, which sought to examine social issues through interweaving narratives that play out like a thriller. Alejandro González Iñárritu was perhaps the biggest proponent of this style, and his influence is felt here. Here the action takes place in Madrid, and unlike Spain, which we are used to seeing in many American movies, we see a Spain here that is bleak, crowded, dirty, and racked by poverty. The film aims on the housing crisis in the country, and the record number of evictions that have occurred in recent years. Cruz plays a mother who is going to become the victim of such an eviction.

Other narratives play throughout the film, although Cruz's is the most memorable due to her star power, along with Luis Tosar. This is pure misery p*rn, and Cruz exists in this movie to suffer (although there is something redemptive about the film's cathartic finale). Unfortunately, the film overall is not believable enough to generate much interest, and it doesn't help that it feels heavy-handed at times. While we are sure the director had good intentions, On the Fringe feels somewhat clunky and lacks grace in its execution.



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