Upon Entry (2023)

Upon Entry (2023)

A tense chamber piece with two quietly despairing lead performances

7.4

Movie

Spain
Catalan, English, Spanish
Drama, Thriller
2023
ALEJANDRO ROJAS, JUAN SEBASTIÁN VÁSQUEZ
Alberto Ammann, Ben Temple, Bruna Cusí
74 min

TLDR

I hope my family never ends up in this situation, but I'm just saying that any immigration officer would be crazy to go up against my mother and her reams of binders and triplicate immigration documents.

What it's about

Attempting to immigrate to the United States, a couple from Spain is held at the airport by immigration officers, who question the nature of their relationship.

The take

He may be out of office, but films about Donald Trump's racist and xenophobic immigration policies will continue to feel urgent for the ripple effect they've left on so many immigrants—and these films aren't just coming from within the United States either. A Spanish production, Upon Entry boils down a presidential term's worth of discrimination to just a few hours in the lives of a couple being interrogated at the airport. Directors Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastián Vásquez shoot in a style that almost feels like they're telling the story in real-time, with very few bursts of emotion and lots of quiet agonizing in the claustrophobia of windowless rooms. Every interaction is fraught with tension, as the couple, Diego and Elena, keep weighing if they should stand up for themselves or submit to the authorities' bullying.

The film eventually makes a bid for more drama by putting the couple's relationship and mutual trust into question, but this choice brings the movie dangerously close to validating the psychological manipulation used by the immigration officers. It momentarily loses sight of the bigger picture: that all this relationship drama is beside the point. Still, as a portrait of how discriminatory laws not only lock people out but tear them apart from each other, it's a potent, painful watch.

What stands out

Lead actors Bruna Cusí and Alberto Ammann resist all temptation to play up their characters' responses for the sake of dramatic effect. All their fear and uncertainty remains bottled up with nowhere to go, which makes for far more interesting performances. And as the immigration officers find the thing that finally drives a wedge between the two, Elena and Diego's bitterness can't help but turn towards each other. So much can be read just in the way each of them pauses after being asked if they love their partner—is it doubt, hesitation to reveal something so intimate, an instinct to protect the other, or a little bit of everything?

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