Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin is one of my favourite books. It’s probably the creepiest book I’ve ever read and I recommend it to horror book readers, but with a caveat about its non-linear narrative.
So when the Netflix film adaptation popped up out of nowhere (but with the Spanish title Rescue Distance, a nod to a quote from the book), I guess I was expecting more horror and less of a low-fi surreal drama. On balance, I’m at least glad they didn’t go the big-score, big-cast, Americanised, overly edited, jump-scare route. This is a very quiet, very uniquely Argentinian story.
Amanda (Maria Valverde) has just moved with her daughter (Nina (Guillermina Sorribes Liotta) to a village in the Argentinian countryside, awaiting her husband’s imminent arrival. Her nearest neighbour Carola (Dolores Fonzi) lives a good walking distance away with her husband Omar (Germán Palacios) and son David (Emilio Vodanovich). Amanda and the magnetic Carola strike up a close friendship but Carola’s visible distrust, and even fear of, her own son becomes increasingly unsettling for Amanda.
Unless you’ve read the book, this film probably doesn’t go where you think it’s going to go, and that’s a good thing. Certain elements do feel faithfully adapted from the source material, such as the commentaries on motherhood, environment and self. But the film softens the insidious dread and panic that the novel so expertly builds up, and the atmosphere around David’s character feels nerfed from the book. It’s just not a horror movie.
That said, even on its own, this gentle madness is still beautiful to watch; the photography of the lush greenery of the homesteads; the eerie silence punctuating the film’s narration; the crisp sounds of the wind blowing through both the wheatfields and Carola’s hair – all are as disarming as they are dreamy.