A Common Crime (Un Crimen Común) is a Spanish-language film from award-winning Argentinian writer/director Francisco Márquez. Known for his Cannes nominated 2016 film The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival as well as London Film Festival in 2020, and will soon be available to watch at home in the U.K.
The film follows a middle class woman named Cecilia, played by Elisa Carricajo, a sociology professor at the university and a single mother to her young son. But on one stormy night, Kevin (Eliot Otazo), the fifteen year old son of Cecilia’s houseworker knocks on her door. However Cecelia doesn’t open the door and she doesn’t let Kevin in because she’s afraid of opening the door in the middle of the night to someone she hardly knows. The next day Kevin is found dead in the river, having been killed by the police. Over the course of the rest of the film we witness Cecilia being haunted by his ghost and the guilt and paranoia that she faces following Kevin’s death.
A Common Crime is a vaguely interesting attempt at a thought-provoking phycological thriller but one of its biggest problems is its slow, plodding pace. With a runtime of only 96 minutes, the film isn’t particularly long and yet it still feels very slow. It starts off well and sets up the rest of the film with an interesting premise but the film meanders along and doesn’t offer anything meaningful. It’s as if it’s trying to be a political drama that’s disguised itself as a psychological thriller.
The film is in essence a thriller as Cecilia’s guilt and fear rises as it goes on. However, the film has very little tension and drama to it, making it quite empty and bland and not really fulfilling its job as a thriller. If it had been labelled as a political drama that might have been a bit more accurate, but even then it never fully develops everything that it’s trying to say about class and Argentinian politics.
The film has too narrow a focus as it concentrates entirely on Cecilia and her reaction to the events. And because this focus is far too narrow to sustain for the entire film, the film ambles along at its very slow pace. And Cecelia never comes across as a particularly engaging or exciting character. So to follow her the whole time is a bit disappointing. Seeing the whole film through the one middle class woman doesn’t provide the audience with as much as it could have done should it have brought in some other perspectives. That being said, Elisa Carricajo does give quite a good performance in the lead role.
The decision for A Common Crime to be presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio worked quite well, as it brought a sense of claustrophobia to the whole film. The black bars on the side of the screen felt as if they were closing in on Cecilia’s guilt so that was quite effective and well done.
A Common Crime lays the groundwork for something with lots of potential but never really fully realises these strong ideas of injustice, inequality, guilt, paranoia and terror. Ultimately ending up being quite a boring thriller.
A Common Crime (Un Crimen Común) is released on VOD on April 9th.