The Chalk Line had promise but ultimately succumbs to an uneven script and an ending that plays it too safe.
Netflix released the film The Chalk Line on Monday, October 24th, 2022 – here is our official spoiler-free review.
The psychological thriller is all the rage nowadays, and this is a welcomed turn since the decades of slasher p**n the world has been exposed to for the past few decades. The Chalk Line (Jaula), a new film from Ignacio Tatay (Mano a mano), is a deeply atmospheric and haunting-looking thriller that is more impressive than the story itself. A script doesn’t have to answer every question. A few good missing points can lead to great conversation, even ponder greater possibilities, but unfortunately, despite a few good twists and turns, some plot holes need to be answered. That’s where the impressive cinematography from Oriol Barcelona comes into play as effective smoke and mirrors.
Working from a script from Isabel Peña (Stockholm), the story follows a childless couple, Paula (Elena Anaya) and Simone (Pablo Molinero). When coming back from a night out, they come across a frightened little blonde-haired girl walking down a lonely highway. They take her to the hospital. The adorable child is in bad shape. They say she is malnourished and has selective mutism. However, Paula and Simone cannot stop thinking about her. So, they let them take her home on a trial basis, in the hopes a comforting surrounding will get her to open up and discover who she is and where she came from.
Today’s film first is standard “bad seed” thriller territory where the caring parent doesn’t want to believe their child is pure evil or possessed in some way. The child is soon called Clara, and things begin to get spooky around the home, like the fact that broken glass starts to show up in jam jars. Even Clara displays emotional control problems and physically assaults Paula.
Peña’s script is perplexing because, as ridiculous as it can be, it also has a satisfying plot twist in its third act. The setup is pure cornball. After watching Netflix’s The Good Nurse, I know hospital administrators love loopholes to get high-risk patients off their books because they don’t want their insurance premiums to rise, but this is beyond ridiculous. The child doesn’t communicate, has been abused, kidnapped, and is also acting dangerous. So, let’s let her go home with strangers where sharp objects are located all around the house.
Yet, when we think The Chalk Line is about to be headed into The Good Son territory, it doesn’t. It veers into a somewhat satisfying, surprising, and suspenseful turn. The issue is the matter of who the villains are is never fully explained. However, I appreciate that Peña’s script doubled down again near the film’s end, leading to another shocking plot twist.
The ending of The Chalk Line screams the result of test screenings. I have a hunch since there is an intervention without explanation, which goes back to what we discussed above. These specific developments unquestionably need at least brief explanations. A more ominous ending would have made a much more effective thriller since the genre’s success is almost always tied to an original conclusion.
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