‘Tin and Tina’ is a different and unprecedented debut in Spanish cinema that opens on March 31. Defined by its production company as a “religious thriller with horror overtones”, it is not easy to label its mix of genres and tones. The film, starring Milena Smith and Jaime Lorenteis at times a black comedy with strong elements of generational connection, and at others a drama about conditioned motherhood.
However, it is not a schizophrenic film, nor do its provocative intentions end up colliding with the transfer of impossible ideas to the screen, but rather manages to string together its particularities and desire to separate from the herd quite well. Part of that merit lies in the casting of the young Carlos G. Morollón and Anastasia Russo, who manage to convey a mixture of hilarity, strangeness, tenderness and terror, like a couple of albino brothers who are as mischievous as they are devout Catholics, Apostolics and Romans. .
When Lola (Milena Smith) loses the babies she was carrying, she also loses her faith in God. Hoping to get her back, she goes with her husband Adolfo (Jaime Lorente) to a nunnery where they meet Tin and Tina, two angelic seven-year-old twins to whom Lola feels strangely attracted. Although Adolfo doesn’t feel the same way, they decide to adopt them. With the passage of time, Lola begins to fall into a spiral of suspicion and obsession with children and their macabre religious games.
The plot is not something too new, but follows a tradition of mischievous children in horror movies that goes from ‘The bad seed’ to ‘The good son’, going through ‘Goodnight Mommy’, but if in other genre shows the danger is that children are the antichrist, on this occasion they represent the exact opposite: children who are practically Christian fanatics who interpret Biblical texts literally. A premise with a lot of game that is based on the short film of the same name by the director and screenwriter, rubin steincreator of the ‘Light & Dark’ trilogy of black and white suspense short films.
This is where ‘Tin & Tina’ (2013) was included, which was followed by ‘Nerón’ (2016) and ‘Bailaora’ (2018). In this extension of the first there is a shower of references to Spanish culture from 1981 that follows a certain common idea of an eighties nostalgia that we have seen in the work of Paco Plaza, with references to Chicho Ibañez Serrador, both to his favorite terrors such as ‘Un, Dos, tres’ and expands to the music of the time with the hit ‘Super Disco Chino’ by Enrique and Ana as leitmotiv.
It is in this mixture of Iberian Catholic costumbrismo and references to the transition —that literal and figurative “coup d’état”— where ‘Tin y Tina’ finds a personality reinforced by a very careful staging and chromatic nuances a la Ari Aster. However, the enchantment does not last more than half of the footage, when not even the retrobizarre presence of Teresa Rabal as mother superior manages to rescue the group from her own self-absorption.
There’s a debut-expansion syndrome of a short film that is hard to miss. After pouring out a host of great ideas and liters of corrosive humor playing with the genre’s familiar tropes, the film settles into its late-night thriller makings and begins to intoxicate itself with a gravity that cries out for a return to the madness promised in his first act. The plot becomes a typical thriller without much suspense, and the viewer always walks three steps before the plot with the deja vu of recent movies like ‘The Sinister Cabin’.
The better the more hooligan and self-conscious
There are many possibilities that do not end up being developed and suggested elements – that dog that detects something in children – turn out not to be developed, like the dilemma of faith of its protagonist, the flimsy social commentary of a patriarchal society and the psychological path of Lola, who turns out to be the true protagonist in a film more concerned with executing a final sequence well than with effectively developing the most basic mechanisms of sustained tension.
With a long two hours, the impression remains that there are redundant situations —How many times can Jaime Llorente tell Milena Smith that there is nothing strange in children’s things?— dialogues that need synthesis and too many phrases whispered in an anemic way. The soundtrack by Jocelyn Pook, a composer from the United Kingdom who wrote the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes wide shut’, gives the ensemble a choral and religious consistency, but tends to repeat some passages in such a way that its disturbing power is blurred .
There is an excellent visual proposal, with a great art direction and that points in the direction of a different Spanish cinema that appears in ‘La piedad’, ‘Cuerpo abierto’ or ’13 exorcismos’, but ‘Tin y Tina’ commits the sin of making us believe that there is a truly daring cinema waiting to explode in a crescendo to end up falling into a collection of more or less disturbing conventions that, deep down, always play it safe, despite some powerful stamp—that amniotic fluid dripping from a severed member— but lacking any real intention, beyond flirting with the extravagant, which forgets that in Spain we come from an unintentionally chilling tradition like ‘Marcelino Pan y vino’ or unique artifacts like ‘Camino’.