Sticking with Netflix and watching films so that you may not have to, I sat down to watch Oriol Paulo’s Mirage, a Spanish thriller that blends time travel, murder, and parental angst into a compelling viewing experience.
It is 1989, and the biggest symbol of division in Germany, the Berlin Wall, is coming down. A 12-year-old Nico Lasarte (Julio Bohigas-Couto) has set a camera up in his bedroom to record himself singing and playing the guitar. Outside, there is an electrical storm brewing, news reports state that the storm will last for 72 hours.
Nico’s mother, Maria (Mima Riera), comes into his room as he is playing. She is off to work and leaves him alone in the house. As she drives away, she does not see her neighbour, Clara Medina (Nora Navas), sitting in a car waiting.
Nico hears fighting from his neighbour’s house and looks out to see an altercation taking place behind curtains across the road from his home. He goes over to the house and sees Hilda Weiss (Clara Segura), dead on the floor. As he looks up from her prone body, he sees Ángel Prieto (Javier Gutiérrez) coming down the stairs brandishing a large kitchen knife.
Scared witless, Nico dashes out of the house with Ángel behind calling after him. Nico runs into the road and is killed by a van.
25 years later, Vera Roy (Adriana Ugarte) is waking up in her new home with her young daughter, Gloria Ortiz (Luna Fulgencio). Her partner, David Ortiz (Alvaro Morte), is away on business, returning the next day. Vera works in a hospital as attending surgical support. It turns out that she had given up a chance of becoming a leading surgeon to look after her daughter and support her husband's career.
In the evening, when David is back, Vera sneaks up on him whilst he is looking through some old books and startles him. Outside, there is another electrical storm brewing. As before, it is expected to last for 72 hours. Vera and David open a cupboard and find the old cathode ray television that Nico had been using, along with the video camera and his old tapes.
They get the old equipment working and watch some of his videos. They are spooked when the television works even without a video cassette being in the camera. It shows the news broadcast from the same night 25 years earlier. They go to have dinner, having invited the neighbours, Clara and her now grown-up son, Aitor (Miquel Fernández).
David tells Aitor about the old television and how they saw a boy playing the guitar on the tapes. Aitor tells them how the boy’s name was Nico and that he was his best friend. Clara gets distressed and tells him to stop telling the story. Later in the evening, David is Googling Nico and tells Vera about the murder and how Ángel confessed.
Vera wakes in the middle of the night and finds the old television is on. As she goes to turn it off, the storm rumbles and somehow she sees Nico. He also sees her. They get talking and Vera tells him not to go out into the road. She is frantic, screaming at him not to go outside.
Vera wakes up in the hospital. A nurse comes and tells her that they are waiting for her in surgery. She comes into the operating theatre to see the patient that she assisted with operating, anesthetized on the table waiting for her to operate. She goes to her daughter's school. She had no daughter and nobody knows who she is.
She goes to find David and he has no idea who she is. Vera is frantic and confused. She goes to see the police and speaks to Inspector Leyra (Chino Darin). He asks her to relate her story to him. He tells her that she does not exist and neither does her daughter.
Back in 1989, Nico is trying to contact Vera in the future, having not been killed due to her intervention. Vera continues to be presented with evidence that her life as she knows it is just a fantasy. When Nico, in 1989, sees Ángel leave his house, he takes the opportunity to go and check out what has happened to Hilda. He finds her dead in the bath.
Nico is forced to hide under the bed when Ángel returns before he can leave the house. Whilst under the bed he finds Clara’s watch. He also witnesses Ángel dismembering Hilda’s body.
Unfortunately, when he tries to tell the police, they do not believe him because of an elaborate alibi ruse involving Clara’s brother, Román (Albert Perez). They think he invented the woman in the television story because he broke into Ángel's home and stole the gold watch.
Meanwhile, an increasingly desperate Vera breaks into her house and is confronted by David’s partner, Ursula (Aina Clotet). They call the police, but a blackout in the storm allows her to escape. She sneaks into Aitor’s car and tells him how they met. Aitor does not believe her. Vera remains undeterred, determined to get back to her daughter and the life she knows.
Vera recalls David telling how Ángel had, in the life she remembered, told the police that he planned to bury his wife under the abattoir. She tells Leyra. He finds Hilda’s body, but tells Vera she needs to go to an address he writes down for her.
She goes to the address and finds David cheating on his partner. She forces him to find Nico’s address so as she can go and find him. David does as she asks. Vera goes to the address and meets Maria, who had been expecting her. Nico turns up and she sees that Leyra is in fact, Nico.
He tells her that they had a life together and that she should forget her other life. She tells him that he needs to reset the timeline as that is the only way he will be able to save her.
She then throws herself off of the balcony. Vera wakes up in her bed, back with David and Gloria. She goes and finds Hilda’s body and calls the police. She meets Leyra again. The end.
At just under two hours and 10 minutes, Mirage is about the normal length of many films these days. After the opening half hour of set up, the film hurtles along at a good pace, flitting between 1989 and 2014 as we follow the repercussions of Vera’s compassionate act.
Vera’s horror and realisation of what has happened are played out so believably, with everyone reacting to her as you would expect, thinking she’s a crazy person; it is fantastically realised. For Vera, everything is the same, but completely different. Most pertinently, her daughter does not exist in this reality.
Adriana Ugarte is riveting as the fiercely driven Vera. Her total commitment to getting back to her daughter is ever present, the solving of a 25-year-old murder secondary. You believe that Ugarte’s Vera would do absolutely anything to get back to her child.
The unraveling of the mystery around Ángel and Clara and Hilda is interesting, explaining Clara’s curt reaction at the dinner early in proceedings. Nora Navas is brilliant as the tortured Clara in the original reality, compared to the Clara who exist in Gloria free reality.
The scenes that show what happened that fateful night in the new reality are very good, especially Clara Segura’s Hilda confronting her husband as she catches him in their bedroom with Clara, leading to the alteration and ultimately, her death.
Music plays its part in the film, setting the tone for scenes and creating tension. At other times, the absence of music also adds to the tension. The film is shot functionally, no unnecessary flourishes or camera pyrotechnics. Instead, the story and time jumps are edited together beautifully, told in such a way that, even with the sporadic time switches, you are never pulled out of the story.
The only, small, disappointment is the easily seen twist of inspector Leyra being Nico. It is a small thing and not something that overly detracts from the film.
Mirage is a highly enjoyable film, mixing fantastical and emotional elements to great effect. Of the many films available on Netflix, I would definitely put Mirage on the make-time-to-watch list.