Attention WORD patrons: This film may be unlike any film you’ve ever seen. Tribeca Fest 2023 jurors considered it a slam dunk.
Asked in a VIMooz magazine interview what inspired his ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA, Director Hugo Ruiz said it had to do with a childhood obsession with night shift street cleaners. “I always thought they were the ones who really closed a city at night, and I’d imagine their lives as they went walking through the empty streets of the city,” he is quoted as saying.
“When I saw VICTORIA, a (2015) German film made in one long sequence shot about (one night) in the life of a (woman) in Berlin, I knew I wanted to tell a story in that way, with a female street cleaner as the main character. That’s how Adela was born.”
A fearless, risk-taking cinematic virtuoso with incredible prowess said the Tribeca Film Fest 2023 film jurors who awarded Ruiz the festival’s Best New Narrative Director Award. “When we think about what makes a great director, we think about a bold, singular vision. An artist with an ability to sustain a point of view, take risks and surprise us with their unique perspective. This director conjured a superb conductor’s ability to reign in a symphony, delivering a highly ambitious first film that left us all affected viscerally. Unanimously. We are excited and curious to see what they will make next.”
This reviewer learned to come to terms with perplexing, risk-taking derring-do filmmakers with visions and imaginations seemingly beyond his reach: See the film as many times as necessary to appreciate if not fathom what may seem impenetrable at the time. ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA is a cinematic tour de force every there was one this reviewer believes.
In Reel 1, the audience is introduced to the main protagonist, other characters, stunning if not virtuoso scenes and images and lots more, which, of course, should be expected for a film with a riveting sturm ind drang this one has.
In the 1st Reel, it eventually becomes evident that Ruiz’s Adela is a human wrecking ball and an unfathomable force of nature for the wrong person or persons who cross her path – or get in her way.
She has encounters with strangers throughout the night. She has rendezvous with fellow workers. She has hookups, too, with her drug supplier. This reviewer tries to be selected about which encounters, rendezvouses, hookups, assignations and the like selected for this review because he doesn’t want to interject too many spoilers. Two or three maybe but more would be the kind of spoiling that committed reviewers avoid for their patrons.
In the 2nd Reel – akin to a sequel for the 1st , additional characters are brought to the fore and the audience is introduced to sides of Adela that weren’t obvious in the 1st Reel. Cinematic aesthetics have shifted considerably. Same movie, different feel. Aesthetics and style from the 1st Reel have shifted in mood and manner in the second. We now see her a comfortably decorated home. Adela, the audience also eventually sees, is blissfully rapt on coke, and, as horny as all get out, calls for a courtesan who shows up to satisfy her needs. The sensuously Black male is part of her night of revenge. It’s when the audience sees her targets for the night – and more.
Early on in the film, Adela is ending her night shift driving a mobilize garbage truck. She stops to get money from a bank ATM. Because of her girth, it’s not hard to imagine her as nature’s version of human M1 Abrams. She doesn’t waddle when she walks, she strides sure-footedly. While making her way back to her truck after getting cash, a carload of dirtbags, on the make and on the lookout for easy female prey to accost sexually, harass her with insulting catcalling and vulgar come-ons. She’s not intimidated. Like many women who encounter these circumstances, she refuses to acknowledge their presence and keeps walking to her truck when one – the alpha male probably – starts walking alongside her.
This reviewer doesn’t understand why she continues to walk as if he wasn’t there, that she doesn’t do a threat assessment. He eventually attacks, hurling her into an alley, and gropes her when he comes across her wad of ATM cash, which he snatches and struts away. His strutting ends grisly: Adela chokes the life out of him in a heart beat, like she was a Schwarzenegger’s Terminator clone hoisting an unfortunate dead weight target on her back. Note, this reviewer was delighted that Adela stood her ground.
She dumps the body under debris and garbage and continues on her way to her dealer’s house. She’s agitated but not nonplus about fatally dispatching the dirtbag. Empathy for Adela can’t be denied despite the obvious lack of guilt and regret about hoisting a dirtbag up on her back with a rope around his neck, strangling him unmercifully.
She heads to her local drug dealer, calms down somewhat in the comradery of the drug den, sniffs a few coke lines and buys a more for later and leaves. Adela makes her way from the den back to her truck where she calls in to a late-night radio talk show, a popular show with people calling in with problems that a pontificating host suggesting remedies.
Adela’s voice is taunt and steeped in braggadocio. She’s been listening to the talk-show until she decides to participate. She wants the host as well the audience to hear her roar about what she plans to do this one night: That she plans to seriously harm someone and that there is nothing anyone can do to stop her.
Adela bates Gemma, the matron of the call-in show. Adela’s rage suggests that her premeditated plan was going to transpire whether or not the initial assault ever happened. Adela fulminates. She’s already murdered once bug says nothing to the audience and Gemma about the kill. Who are the targets of her venomous rage? Those, she says, who selfishly turned her into “a traumatized crackpot.”
Director Hugo Ruiz use a single-shot technique that tracks Adela through most of the film. That technique involves filming in long takes using a single camera or is created to give the impression that it was. Shooting using these techniques comes with lots of challenges that can only be pulled off by the best digital cameras and directors.
Gregg W. Morris can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com