A path of obsession and madness

The Occupant is a well-made film with some unfortunate imperfections

The Occupant. (Photos © Netflix Thailand)

Along with The Platform, The Occupant is another recent Netflix Original crime thriller out of Spain. The film was written and directed by David Pastor and Àlex Pastor, and stars Javier Gutiérrez, Mario Casas, Ruth Díaz and Bruna Cusí. The plot in The Occupant is meant to be like a suspense thriller about a stalker with a chunk of the narrative tackling classism, similar to what we saw in hit South Korean film Parasite last year.

The story follows the life of Javier Muñoz (Gutiérrez), a successful advertising executive who is now down on his luck and seriously discontented with his life after losing his job. He's been struggling to find a new one, as most companies think of him as an old man with no energy for the modern-day advertising business.

In order to maintain himself and his family's comfortable lifestyle, he is forced to sell his own property and move to a much smaller apartment. And through that, he begins to tumble down a path of obsession and madness. When he revisits his old lavish house and becomes obsessed with the new family living there, even creating a false identity to get close to them, this obsession leads to a tragic, horrifying ending. It's a kind of plot we have seen before, like in Cape Fear, where Robert De Niro's character is very much following these family members and creeping on them throughout the movie. And although the plot in itself and the way it's structured is completely different than Parasite, the idea of latching yourself onto this family and slowly taking over the role of one particular person is very similar.

Despite its interesting plot, the narrative of The Occupant drags. I usually don't mind slow-burn movies, but in this film an hour goes by without really developing its characters. The whole film could have been done in half the time because the build-up is way too slow, and very anticlimactic. Because of the slow build-up, you know what's coming next, and there is rarely true suspense or thrills.

Ruth Díaz and Javier Gutiérrez in The Occupant.

Something about the writing of each character in The Occupant felt very unrealistic. I didn't see the villain coming for Javier at all, and I wasn't really sure what his motives were for the entire film. At first it looked like this perception could be his tactic to try and get a job back somehow in a twisted, deceptive way. Apparently, his motive turns out to be something way, way more sinister. Whatever Javier does or plans seems implausible, and everything in the end is a little too convenient for him. I was also confused by the actions of other characters, like Damián's wife Lara (Bruna Cusí). Why would she have potentially put her husband at risk in the final act, or how has her relationship with Javier gotten to the point of trust, like, literally within five minutes? The film doesn't provide you much of a bridge of information to explain how we got from A to B.

While this may not be a perfect movie by any means, that's not to say The Occupant isn't a well made film and there are no bright spots. The visuals and production are great, with a variety of thoughtful compositions and an eye for effectively moody lighting. The Occupant may have a few flaws but is still an entertaining watch, especially for a character study on perception, desire, greed and obsession for success.

  • The Occupant
  • Starring Javier Gutiérrez, Mario Casas, Bruna Cusí
  • Directed by David Pastor, Àlex Pastor
  • Now streaming on Netflix