Synopsis: A wavering bride, a stranger, an earnest groom: “romantic triangle,” right? Think again. To that set-up, filmmaker Matthew Parkhill adds twist after twist to shape a surprising romantic thriller. Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries) plays the stranger. Natalia Verbeke is Carmen. And James D’Arcy (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) portrays her fiancÃ©. Each has secrets to be revealed. Each is prey to the others’ agendas. Keep your eyes open. Don’t miss a detail. Cross your t’s and Dot the I.
Dot the i 7.25
eyelights: its core concept. its pretty cast.
eyesores: its unlikely plot twist. its wobbly performances.
“Come on, whatever you say, whatever you do, movies always got there first. Even that line you just said comes from a movie.”
What if your life was a fabrication, a manipulation by outside forces? What if you were being watched everywhere you went? What if your actions were being recorded and you didn’t know it? What if the people closest to you weren’t who you thought they were?
Such are the questions thrown at the audience in ‘Dot the i’, the 2003 suspense film by Matthew Parkhill starring Gael García Bernal, Natalia Verbeke and James D’Arcy. It follows Carmen as her life is thrown into upheaval when she falls for Kit at a party.
…just as she’s about to get married to Barnaby.
An impetuous and tempestuous woman, she explores this new connection even though she knows it will destabilize her whole life: she spends her days with Kit, lying to Barnaby, losing her job, even getting arrested over this burgeoning affair. She can’t help it.
But she comes to regret it as she sees Barnaby fade out of her life and her former insecurities grow; she feels as though she’s being followed, and though Barnaby was there to protect and soothe her in the past, she can’t count on him anymore. Or anyone else.
She doesn’t feel safe.
And rightfully so, as ‘Dot the i’ makes painfully clear: Carmen was being followed. She was also being filmed everywhere she went. But who’s intruding so massively on her personal space? And what does this person want? What exactly is going on?
The picture tries so hard to muddy the waters so that we always wonder who the culprit is, but ultimately it’s not an especially deep or satisfying result. Thankfully, it’s also not random – we can deduce who the person is, though not quite their motivations.
And this is where the picture falls apart: the big reveal is intriguing, in a “could someone do that?” or “could someone get away with that?” sort of way, but it’s not especially convincing. Instead, it leaves us incredulous – and even more so as it carries on.
And the whole finale is totally absurd: there’s no way to believe that the relationships have developed the way that they did or that the outcome could be staged the way that it was. This twist is really just the product of a movie flailing for a happy ending.
But it’s rubbish.
The relationship between Carmen and Kit is also questionable at times, especially when Kit makes grand gestures or they have typically “romantic” moments. They feel fake, contrived. And the lengthy love scene is just silly, with Carmen wearing her top throughout.
Who does that?
Look, if you must conceal the actress (likely a contractual obligation), which is fine, just shoot her at unrevealing angles. It’s not rocket science! Sheesh.
Thankfully, the actors are worth a look:
- Bernal is his usually excellent self, though some of his carefree laughter didn’t seem genuine at all.
- Verbeke isn’t always convincing, but there’s certainly something about her that makes her watchable.
- D’Arcy was interesting, in that he channeled some of Anthony Perkins’ creep factor as Norman Bates.
And look for Tom Hardy and Charlie Cox in early parts, though both are too goofy to be bearable.
Where the picture succeeds the most at is in being mildly creepy: by giving us POV shots from the cameras watching Carmen, we are constantly reminded of this looming threat. It does what ‘Sliver‘ attempted slightly more successfully, though not perfectly.
The box art claims that ‘Dot the i” is “This year’s Memento”. It isn’t: it’s far too simplistic for that. But of course, in all fairness, no other movie could ever be ‘Memento’. Still, this one’s reasonably captivating for the genre and it never overstays its welcome.
At the very least, it’s worth a look.
Date of viewing: January 10, 2017