All I knew when I sat down for Shrew’s Nest was that it was produced by the always-interesting Álex de la Iglesia (Witching & Bitching, The Last Circus) and that the Stanley Festival folks had compared it to Misery. Well shit, that’s all I needed to hear. The debut feature of Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel, Shrew’s Nest is a wicked little film about family ties and the painful constraints of memory. What starts out as a devilish family drama between two sisters transforms into a mad grasp for desperate companionship on one side and straight up survival on the other.
Set sometime in the 1950s, the film centers around Montse (Macarena Gomez) who lives with her younger sister Hermana (Nadia de Santiago), who has just turned 18. The sisters’ morbid family history consists of a dead mother and a father who bounced after the funeral. Since then, Montse has suffered from crippling agoraphobia – one foot out of their apartment door and she’s ready to explode. Hermana, on the other hand, is ready for romance and to shake off the domineering constraints her sister has created.
But maybe Montse is ready for a flame of her own too. And maybe she’s willing to do something drastic to make someone love her. Montse’s slapdash scheme to nail down a lover is the catalyst for the vicious unraveling of her and Hermana’s relationship. The final half of Shrew’s Nest is as wildly suspenseful with a suffocating atmosphere that nearly chokes its audience out.
Some films try to lazily crank up the tension by making the affair inexplicably claustrophobic – condensing the story to a taught location with little explanation. Shrew’s Nest ain’t that lazy mother though. The film delivers one of the most organic takes on claustrophobia in recent memory – giving a thorough and wholly believable explanation for Montse’s agoraphobia. She can’t leave the apartment, so the whole shebang takes place within its cramped walls.
What really sells the drama is Macarena Gomez and Nadia de Santiago’s performances. These two lady leads are passionately versatile as they run a 90 minute marathon of emotions that ranges from sincerely empathetic to bat out of infierno. Montse is a deeply multi-dimensional villain that viewers will find themselves inadvertently rooting for from time to time – only to be disgusted with her the next second. It’s these kind of emotional layers that make Shrew’s Nest a massive step above the rest.
It’s a mesmerizing, sinister drama to watch play out – the audience bares witness as a seemingly nurturing environment absolutely loses its mind in a fury of violence. All the while, Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel show themselves to be masters of their craft – from the brutal imagery to the depth of character. It’s hard to comprehend that this is their first feature. It’s just so goddamn well crafted, well acted, and downright gripping.
Shrew’s Nest (aka Musarañas) is currently working the festival circuit. We’ll bring you release news as it comes along.