Don’t underestimate your dog is one thing that should be taken from this Spanish thriller about a paraplegic who gets trapped in a home after her helper dog is bitten by a rabid bat.

Elena (Paula de Rió) is paralysed after a car accident that killed her sister, and is bitter. Even as her father Miguel (Miguel Ángel Jenner) takes her to the family home that he has adapted for her, and her service dog Athos. And Athos is a friendly curious animal trained to assist Elena, opening doors with the ropes on the door handles. But he’s annoying and Elena tricks the dog leaving him outside with cursory remark, after his encounter with the bat.

A grateful as she knows she should be nothing is taking the scowl off her face; family tragedy and guilt fill Elena which she viciously pours over her father. With the words ringing Miguel suffers a fatal heart-attack outside the house leaving Elena virtually trapped.
The dog meanwhile is clearly suffering. Elena trying to dislodge a mobile from cupboard knocks herself out. Recovering she struggles to open a door but as the house is incomplete she’s trapped by her surroundings and a rabid dog.

A battle of wits and sheer determination to stay alive begins between Elena and Athos. Adding to this she is also plagued by her own guilt, and taunted her sister Vera (also played by de Rió) as we dig deeper into the family’s background.

While not presenting anything that original debut director Jose Luis Montesinos, who co-wrote it with Yako Blesa, does have a handle on how to build and control tension. The scenes where the dog is scrambling around the house with Elena trying to work her next move are tightly controlled, conscious she has limited options.

This is all supported by the sound design and Montesinos’s use of it, and silence at key moments which enhances the atmosphere as the house becomes both a prison and an ally.

Paula de Rió is excellent in the dual roles of Elena and Vera. Elena’s frustration, guilt and anger boiling over at the beginning when she goes too far on her father, to her final revelations as her character develops through the film to a surprisingly moving ending.

Ropes will be available on digital platforms from 19th November.

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