BFI Flare 2021 ‘Dose’ Review: Creepy Euthanasia Thriller

Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) works the night shift in the intensive care unit where he occasionally euthanizes his terminal patients. He does so out of what he calls pity. But he is forced to reconsider his actions when a new nurse, Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers), starts who seems to have a much more casual approach to taking life.

Subtly sinister character drama which keeps you guessing as to what the nature of the threat actually is. Gabriel is clearly sinister in his actions but its unclear why. He’s unpredictable and dispassionate. Rogers plays him superbly well with a lowkey malice that is deeply unsettling. Perhaps his character is best understood as the consequences Marcos’ decisions made manifest. He appears just as Marcos makes the decision to end a patients life and is constantly acting on his weaknesses. Their relationship recalls Dostoyevsky’s The Double. Once he has made his fateful decision, everything that happens to him leads him to one inevitable place.

The homoeroticism of the film is curious and perhaps even a little problematic. The two men are drawn to each other but the attraction is almost vampiric. Gabriel can charm anyone, Markos included. Seemingly lacking in any affection elsewhere in his life beyond a sincere if withdrawn relationship with a co-worker, the homoerotic elements are portrayed as a part of the sinister nature of the Gabriel character. Perhaps the character is in fact attracted to men, the denial of which has contributed to his unhappy lifestyle and his view of death as a mercy, but if so this element is a little underdeveloped. An hour in, one may well suitably ask themselves what the film is doing at an LGBTQI+ film festival, even if it is superbly well made.

Better developed is the theme of Euthanasia, which is explored as an act of mercy and an act of convenience. Markos takes a life because he believes it is the merciful thing to do, and yet as soon as he does his counterpart is made manifest, and he experiences what happens when this line is crossed. It’s a film about the corruptibility of man, and how no one can truly take responsibility for ending a life without transforming into something different.

Stylistically the film is muted greens and yellows, a quietly off putting aesthetic that emphasises the unnatural. Blood red is the only primary colour used, denoting a danger that is creeping in to Marcos’ life all around him. The soundtrack recalls a Yorgos Lanthimos film with it’s quirky but sinister tension that builds towards the increasingly flamboyant climax.¬†Dose a dark but firmly arresting work.

Four Stars

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