Habitación de Fermat, La (2007)
★★★ / ★★★★
Galois (Alejo Sauras) claimed to have solved one of mathematics’ greatest mysteries called Goldbach’s Theorem which had given him a high profile in academia. But one afternoon, he found his room ransacked and his research was gone. A couple of months later, Galois and three other brilliant minds (Elena Ballesteros, Santi Millán, Lluís Homar) were invited for a cryptic gathering to tackle a mysterious riddle. But before they knew it, almost immediately after their host (Federico Luppi) left the room, they had to solve riddles in under one minute. Failure to have done so would result in the room getting smaller and smaller and threatened to crush them. Could the four find a way out before they turned into pancakes? “Fermat’s Room” was a surprising film because I thought the puzzles the characters were expected to solve relied solely on math problems. I was ready. It turned out that the puzzles required a solid amount of logic. I was fascinated with the events that transpired because for supposedly having four highly intelligent individuals, they didn’t always choose to make the best decisions. Their guilt got in the way, they argued like time wasn’t of the essence, and resulted to aggression (which was amusing at times) instead of focusing their energy and brain power to prevent the walls from closing in. But, in a way, we wanted the walls to get closer and closer because the stakes became that much higher. As the film went on, we realized that the characters’ personalities resembled that of negatively charged electrons in an increasingly claustrophobic space. Their temperaments were repulsive to each other and violence inevitably entered their already unfortunate situation as they attempted to fight for survival. Written and directed by Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña, half the fun of watching their work was recognizing (and learning to ignore some of) the many red herrings they threw at us. The film undoubtedly paralleled James Wan’s grizzly “Saw,” not because of the gore or the torture, but because its twists managed to sneak up from behind us via preoccupying us with the images that stared us in the eyes. Was the perpetrator of the sick game recording the players’ progress and watching from the outside or was he (or she) one of our four protagonists? I wish the film provided more background information about our protagonists. By not doing so, it purposely kept us in the dark so we would jump to incorrect conclusions. It didn’t need to keep us in the dark. With such a thick mystery in the center with four or five things going on simultaneously, it was easy enough to overlook key details. “La habitación de Fermat” had its rewards and the thrills were not confined in that one room.
Beautiful Ohio (2006)
★ / ★★★★
Chad Lowe’s directoral debut is rather difficult to get through because it doesn’t rise above the stereotypes regarding depressing suburban drama. William Hurt and Rita Wilson have two sons: David Call, a certified genius in mathematics, and Brett Davern, who is rather ordinary. Michelle Trachtenberg complicates the storyline by filling in the role as the not-so-girl-next-door who the two brothers happen to be attracted to. The first part of the film is rather interesting because it explores the jealously between the two brothers–mainly Davern struggling to live in his big brother’s shadow versus stepping out of it. I could relate to the two brothers because they pretty much have nothing in common except for their unconventional parents. Things quickly went downhill from there because the dialogue mostly consisted of the characters discussing theories, influential musicians and citing quotes from renowned individuals. Their pretentiousness created this wall between me and the characters. Therefore, when something dramatic happens to a particular character or a revelation occurs, I found myself not caring. I didn’t find anything particularly profound that drove the story forward either. Lowe really needed something above the whole parents-not-really-caring-about-their-children idea because it’s all been done before by better films. Davern reminded me of Emile Hirsch in “Imaginary Heroes,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but without the nuances of pain and complexity. If Lowe had explored the common theme of characters not understanding each other (literally through language or emotionally) in a more meaningful and not a heavy-handed manner, this picture would’ve worked. The revelation about a certain character in the end felt out of place. Don’t waste your time with this one.