A man is renting out his apartment, seeing prospects who come by the place to look it over. Then, one day, a famous reporter named Lina stops by. She had made the appointment under an assumed name, but the man immediately knows who she is — because he had replied to her on Twitter with a hateful, offensive tweet.
Now the reporter has come to confront him about the terrible things he has written to her on social media, and she wants him to insult her to her face. And in doing so, he must confront the consequences of his online actions.
Directed by Javier Marco from a script by Belen Sanchez-Arevalo, this sharp, incisive Oscar-qualified short drama is a study of an online troll forced to reckon with the reverberations of his destructive, hateful words. Told in a compact two-hander format within a single location, the storytelling doubles down on insightful dialogue, brought to life with nuanced, truthful performances.
At first, the situation is tense but enigmatic as the woman shows up to a small, cramped apartment, much to the uneasy surprise of its current occupant. But as the online troll and the reporter he harassed talk — first haltingly, and then with a riveting force — the circumstances begin to reveal themselves, as do the characters.
The film takes advantage of the compressed setting and narrative scope to go deep quickly, leaning on a handheld, naturalistic style to capture the cramped, uncomfortable intimacy of the space as well as the quicksilver back-and-forth of emotion. It also brings to fore the powerful, painfully honest duet of performances that form the heart of the film. Actors Sonia Almarcha and Manolo Solo capture the currents of emotion flickering between the two: anger and shame to begin with, which gives way to pain and vulnerability.
Lina gives voice to the very real, raw agony that Alge88’s words have inflicted upon her, and Alge88 must face the impact of his hateful online expression, as well as own up to the shame within himself that leads him to insult people anonymously to begin with. Both become entangled within a confrontation that leaves both stranded alone in their mutual suffering.
“A La Cara (Face to Face)” — which also won the Goya Award for best short film — ends with a note of quiet devastation for both characters, but it also becomes a surprisingly compassionate examination of why “haters” act out in the way they do. From a core wound of invisibility and loneliness, they seek what any human being wants — to be seen and heard, even by intensely negative means.
Of course, not every online troll is confronted directly by the target of their vitriol, making the film something of a compelling, powerful morality play for modern times. But the point is clear: hateful sentiments may carry a lifetime’s worth of pain and anger. But as a result, those words can cause equally intense suffering themselves. Anonymity may let them evade their consciences, but the end price is the damage they do to their selves, deepening the shame and self-hatred that led to their trolling to begin with.