Hell is a timeshare. A designated parcel of property allocated to your family for one immobile week each year. A curated escape, one characterized by pool floaties, crawfish-colored sunburns and frozen cocktails melting in plastic hurricane cups, that lives in a state of semi-stasis. There’s a kind of “Twilight Zone” quality to the whole notion of the billion dollar industry – this turnstile of the self-safe experience, pocked with undulating regret for much of its clientele. Anyone who’s ever attended one know that the only thing worse than being padlocked to an eternal timeshare is facing a sales rep at a timeshare pitch and Sebastián Hofmann’s film, the aptly named Time Share (Tiempo Compartido), captures the sheer horror of that corporate jockeying for one’s undying commitment.
Pedro (Luis Gerardo Mendez) thinks he is treating his family to an upscale vacation, his wife Eva (Cassandra Ciangherotti) impressed but unsure how they are able to afford such a pristine property, but when the timeshare special he’s enrolled in proves overpopulated, he finds himself sharing his villa with another, very unwanted, family. A gaggle of goons with adult braces and Caribbean braids led by the well-meaning but entirely clueless Abel (Andrés Almeida), these invaders are exactly what Pedro is hoping to escape from. When the smug Everfield manager fails to compensate for the intrusion, the two families must share the small space and – ahem – their time, a fact that slowly begins to drive Pedro mad.
Meanwhile one of the employees of the establishment Andres (Miguel Rodarte), struggles to keep up with the changing corporate culture, falling deep into an all-encompassing depression that dredges up the loss of his child. Andres is a tragic character, prone to hallucination and seizures, his wife Gloria (Montserrat Marañon) cold, uncompromising and cruel. A drinker of the Kool-aid, Gloria sells herself wholesale to the pseudo-familial mission statement of Everfields, abandoning any shred of emotion for her suffering husband. The film’s title, it seems, proves doublespeak, hinting too at romantic relationships being a sort of unwavering time share in themselves.
Hofmann makes no attempt to hide the devil in the details – although there are plenty of devilish clues spread throughout. His intention is crystalline, a sharply satirical takedown of the Mickey Mouse-ification of quality time, and he makes the metaphorical connection between buying a stake in these types of properties and selling your soul, inked in blood, a vendor for the devil, very obvious. He can be crafty with our expectations. Casting a net of speculation where one hallucination makes us question what is and is not real, Time Share peeling into the kind of film where an industrial-sized laundry machine spilling pink fluid could be the result of a colored shirt making its way into the whites, or something far more nefarious.
The word “paradise” crops up over and over again in the Everfields pitch but Hofmann plants visual clues suggesting the opposite liberally. Take the temperature reading 66.6 degrees or the hotel grounds basking in a blood-red glow after the beating sun sets. Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte (the only English-speaker present) is some kind of white devil, overlording the transition to the American-owned Everfields Co., performing a sellout song and dance to get the local workers onboard the corporate agenda and smiling about it as they go.
Everfields plot is a place of constant advertising, a Rube Goldberg machine of self-hype. It’s the equivalent of being trapped in a commercial for 24 hours a day. Even the term “leisure experts” makes me shudder. It’s a land of the cult of holiday, where brainwashed vacationers dance in synchronization, slurping down the Pina Colada-flavored corporate Kool-Aid. Chugging down swag as if it had a substantive value.
There is something inherently discomforting about the idea of a timeshare, the fact that in many cases it outlives the original purchaser somehow more chill-inducing than having a house or old car pass beyond your expiration. It turns even more creepy when spun into a positive pitch about “passing it onto your kids”. Hofmann exploits this grandly, making a conspiratorial thriller that also contends honestly with the challenge of human relationships. It might end in a fizzle, climaxing a bit too soft to fully justify all the pressure-cooker build up, were it not for Mendez’ grand exit, which cuts to the heart of the deals we make with ourselves, our families and the increasingly invasive companies that want to come between it all.
CONCLUSION: The Spanish-language ‘Time Share’ boasts strong performances from its predominantly Mexican cast, delivering a mix of solid thrills and earnest drama in a stylized takedown of the timeshare vacation industry. Peddling in the discomfort of invaded space and borrowing shades of low-key body horror to punch up the angst, ‘Time Share’ laughs – and shudders – at the irony of man-made “paradise”.