Netflix’s latest offering, The Motive, takes combating writer’s block to a disturbing new level.
The Spanish drama’s protagonist, Alvaro (Javier Gutierrez), is living the struggle life in every way imaginable. He’s an aspiring writer who wants to write impactful literature, but he cannot seem to find the right ideas.
Alvaro has been dumping money into night writing courses to no avail while he watches his wife enjoy the fruits of her successful novel. He works as a notary in a stuffy, cluttered office complete with a co-worker who talks incessantly about nothing and a boss who is always on his case.
Things go further downhill when he discovers a shocking secret about his wife and gets embarrassed in his writing class by the professor. His professor’s profane tirade about Alvaro’s lack of progression despite years of being his student and his passionless, pointless stories made me cringe on my couch.
It was probably the best scene in the entire movie, which is not good considering it happens within the first 20 minutes. But, this interaction, along with a tense conversation with his wife about living in the present instead of constantly looking toward a dream or future, sets him on a different path as a writer.
There are a lot of truth nuggets packed into those conversations that can cause anyone to think twice about how they are approaching their career goals. It all adds up to a relatively strong start for The Motive, but the movie starts to veer between blah and genuinely intriguing moments for the remainder of the story.
Alvaro goes from the guy you kinda feel sorry for to a full-on creeper when he moves into a nondescript apartment building. After finally getting some positive feedback from his writing professor, Alvaro takes his advice to draw his inspiration from the world around him out of context.
He starts with a little light stalking of a quiet older man who lives upstairs and records audio of his married neighbors’ private moments. He even strikes up a connection with Portera, the building’s omnipotent superintendent who knows a little too much about everyone in the building.
He concocts random reasons to interact with them, which lead to some comedic yet cringe-worthy moments.
Honestly, I thought the movie would go deeper into the dark and twisty territory for an interesting thriller filled with lies, deceit, and maybe a murder. But, it was mainly Alvaro being nosy in his neighbors’ personal and legal affairs or typing furiously at his desk sans clothing. Weird.
He didn’t do much for me as a protagonist and I found myself wanting to know more and see more of Portera and the married couple (Lola and Enrique) across the hallway. There were a few intriguing parts in the second half, like Lola’s sad karaoke number and the real-life arguments and struggles of a Mexican couple adjusting to life as immigrants in Spain.
It’s obvious why Alvaro used these people to influence his characters because they were great.
There were a lot of dragging moments and a lack of drama in important scenes, including a twist at the end involving a murder. I have never seen a more boring murder reveal in my entire life.
The Motive wasn’t the most terrible movie I have seen lately, but it certainly wasn’t great either. The acting was solid and the overall premise was fascinating, but it didn’t deliver on the manipulativeness and mental unraveling of Alvaro in terms of his interactions with the tenants.
The shining moments and earnest performances just aren’t enough to overlook the dragging, underwhelming execution of a solid idea.