One Night with Adela
Director: Hugo Ruiz
Starring: Laura Galán, Gemma Nierga, Jimmy Barnatán, Raudel Raúl, Litus, Rosalía Omil, Fernando Moraleda, Beatriz Morandeira
Hugo Ruiz’s feature directorial debut, One Night with Adela, is certainly an ambitious effort. Shot as a one-take for the entirety of its one-hundred-minute runtime (with a few clever cuts hidden away), the film follows Madrid street cleaner Adela (Galán) on a dark night fuelled by revenge, drugs, and sex. She’s a deliberately unlikable character but eminently watchable as she rampages through the story leading to an unexpected conclusion.
Plagued by a lifetime of trauma, Adela decides to lash out against all those around her but to go into specifics further would be to spoil a decidedly wild ride. When One Night with Adela is riding high, it’s a compelling and more than intriguing experience, but it is one that struggles to sustain itself across its runtime. At various times throughout the film, Ruiz leaves the camera lingering on uninteresting visuals - such as a portable radio as Adela’s favourite talk show plays, one that she frequently calls in to during the night, and a nature documentary covering young birds - in order to maintain the one-shot idea. It goes without saying that a little more runtime restraint would have strengthened the film greatly. I can’t fault the music choices, though - there are some real bangers scattered throughout.
The success of the movie, however, lays squarely on the shoulders of Galán as she snarls her way through the movie like a UFC fighter on their ring walk. Her raw and kinetic performance is astonishing, her anger and cruel nature providing the antithesis to her (also excellent) performance in 2022’s Piggy, and, despite harbouring a brash and unfriendly demeanor, it's hard to take your eyes off of her performance.
As to why she is so fuelled by anger, the answers come in an unexpected reveal later in the film that suddenly changes the narrative direction - and does remove some of the necessity for the one-shot gimmick. What started as following Adela through her already strange night and constant radio calls becomes something wildly different and your mileage will depend on how you react to the switch-up. It certainly feels ambiguous which is frustrating given what unfolds, but there is a real sense of catharsis on display that, again, proves compelling. There’s an unpredictability to the film that offers those final sequences an added layer of tension.
For all of its qualities, One Night with Adela does feel like a film that on first viewing is inventive and exciting but would lose much of its impact with repeat viewings. That said, whilst the execution isn’t always smooth, One Night with Adela is a wildly ambitious romp with another powerful performance from Galán.
ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA had its world premiere at Tribeca Festival on June 8th, 2023.
June 11th 2023