I’ve been hankering for some murder mysteries for a while. I mean Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman scratched the drama itch for me, at least for a while but my first love has always been crime shows and murder mysteries.
Someone once asked me: why the love for one person murdering another person stories – and I think The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo) summarises the answers quite perfectly.
With murder mysteries, there is always a victim and there is always a search for the culprit as well as the truth of what happened. Sometimes there is no victim: you can’t find the body, or you are not sure if the person was actually dead. Sometimes the culprit is the person you least expected. And sometimes the truth is convoluted while other times the true answer can only be the simplest one.
There is however a fourth factor if a case goes to court, and that is how the murder is presented to the jury (us). The Invisible Guest explores how a murder is interpreted or how a murder story unfolds through multiple angles, giving us a lot to chew on before the final solution is revealed. Heavy spoilers ahead. You don’t have to watch the movie if you continue reading, that’s how heavy things are going to get. (I get that this isn’t what a review really is but hey, it’s my blog)
The story begins with a meeting between the accused Adrian Doria and his prosecutor, Virginia Goodman. She is there to dig the truth out of him. Having retired, she took up this one last case on the request of Adrian’s solicitor Felix and wants to ensure her record goes unsullied. But to do that, she needs Adrian to tell her everything from the very beginning.
Adrian tells him about Laura, the woman he had been having an affair with. She had been killed inside a locked room with nobody else around apart from Adrian. Police found him in the room after another guest reported a disturbance. Logically, Adrian was the only person who could have done it.
Why he insists on being framed for the murder seems like a feeble attempt to weasel his way out of a prison sentence. He is after all a rich, well established businessman with a perfect family life. That’s kinda what his character type does.
Virginia asks if he has any enemies, to which he replied no. She questions the motive behind someone blackmailing him, murdering Laura and leaving the money behind (what was the point then) if Adrian didn’t have someone really really pissed off at him.
After much pushing, he admits to having caused the death of a passing motorist. It was, in his defence, an accident. A deer had crossed his path and in an effort to avoid it, he rammed into another car, killing the other motorist.
In an effort to salvage the situation – they were both married and they cannot allow their spouses to find out about the affair – Adrian and Laura tried to leave the area but their car, damaged from the accident would not start. Another motorist passing through the area saw them together as well as the damaged cars.
The cunning Laura tries to pretend to be the driver of the other car and that she and Adrian were in the midst of exchanging insurance information. The motorist leaves them. Laura convinces Adrian to get rid of the body and the car while Laura waits in their own car for help to arrive. Adrian drives for an hour and dumps the car in the middle of a swampy lake then calls Laura to come pick him up so they can get back home.
Laura arrives, in tears, and tells him a freaky coincidence. She had gotten the car fixed by a third passing motorist who knows his way around cars. He offered to tow her car back to his garage to be fixed. While waiting at their lovingly warm home, Laura had discovered to her horror, that the passing motorist and his lovely wife were the parents to the passenger. #iknowright
Laura tells Adrian to report the car stolen, and she gets rid of the car at the scrapyard. They went their separate ways and promised to never see each other again. The end.
At least that’s what Adrian tells Virginia. Laura is no longer around to refute or corroborate anything he says. Virginia however, being the powerful attorney that she is starts punching holes in his story.
So they came up with another one, where the passing motorist who saw them exchanging insurance information was the one blackmailing Laura and Adrian. Having lured them to the hotel, he had the dead motorist’s father kill Laura for having lied to and frame their son, who works in a bank, for fraud (and instead of being murdered, he ran away with the money instead).
Hold up? Are you suggesting that the dead motorist’s father is capable of committing murder, Adrian asks. Why not? Replies Virginia. If anyone has a burning desire for revenge, it would be the father who unknowingly had picked up and helped the very person who had caused the death of his son and then covered it up. He couldn’t even bury his only child.
And how would he have escaped the room? Adrian and everyone else (me!) asked. Virginia: Well, the wife works in the hotel. She could have orchestrated a feasible escape route for her husband. It all pans out. This is the strongest story you have. But in order for the jury to buy this, you need to explain to the jury why this guy has it out for you. And that means copping to causing the accidental death of his son.
Virginia gets a phone call. They have discovered who the prosecutor’s witness is. And it’s the second motorist. The one who saw them together. Virginia says here I’ve got a better story.
Let’s pin EVERYTHING on Laura. She was there at the cabin herself. She alone hit the passing motorist. She got rid of the car. She called you to help her clear up her mistake. You were innocent, Adrian. You had nothing to do with this but the dead motorist’s father was convinced you did.
The only way to prove that Laura is the only person who was guilty of all of this – and that’s why the father killed her – is to locate the car and put something that belongs to her in it to connect her to the crime. Then, put an anonymous call in for the police to find the car. The perfect plan!
(But Adrian, how then would the father be able to have picked up Laura and her damaged car, tow it back to the house and fix it for her? Did you think of that? Because that’s the only way the father could have linked Laura to the crime and in the end killed her. Something is way off for Story #3, you need to talk it out more.)
Adrian asks, what about the passing motorist? (Yeah, Virginia, what about the passing motorist?) He could place Adrian at the scene of the crime. He will tell the prosecutor everything. Virginia says she lied about that. They haven’t located the motorist. It was all a ruse to extract the truth from Adrian.
Virginia: I had to do it. You were lying through your teeth. Adrian: Well, I need to see if you could get me out of that room. And you did.
Adrian had found out that the dead motorist’s mother worked at the hotel. The venue wasn’t picked at random. He just couldn’t figure out how the father can get himself out of the room. And Virginia did the hard work for him. Looks like he isn’t as innocent as he looks.
Virginia had earned his respect, which is when he lands her with a fourth story.
The dead motorist was taken to the swampy lake in the trunk. Right before Adrian pushed the car into the lake, he discovered that dead motorist isn’t exactly dead. Adrian had gone too far to turn back now. So he drowned the poor guy.
This confirms that Adrian was there and he was the one who not only caused the accident but had actually killed the passing motorist. But who killed Laura? Virginia puts out Story #5. This thing is about to go sideways.
It was Adrian all along. The parents of the dead boy had nothing to do with it. Laura, instead of being the instigator and the plan maker, had been racked with guilt since the incident.
She had contacted the parents and informed them that she is going to make this right. She sent the blackmail material to Adrian and made him bring the blackmail money so she can pay the poor parents for the loss of their son.
Adrian, having figured out he had been played, murdered Laura and staged the scene so he could frame the parents for it. He needed to figure out how someone can get out of the locked room and that’s what Virginia is here for. The only problem is getting enough evidence to put them there at the hotel. Virginia says she needs more time to work with Adrian, but after they take a break. It’s going to be a long night.
Adrian gets a call from Felix, his solicitor who has found passing motorist no.2 and bought him off. Looks like they can stick to Story #3 as an alternative to Story #2. Their phone call was interrupted by a static disturbance and Adrian discovers that the pen Virginia had brought with her is a voice recording device.
It slowly dawns on him that he has told the absolute truth to Virginia and that she may not really be on his side. To his horror he sees her in the building across the street, standing next to the dead motorist’s father, where she reveals herself, by tearing off cosmetics, contact lenses and a wig, to be the mother.
The real Virginia Goodman turns up at Adrian’s doorstep minutes later, as the dead guy’s father turns off the sound recorder in his room and makes a call to authorities.
*flips table* What the what? That came out of f*cking nowhere. But bar this unrealistic ending this is why I like watching murder mysteries. This is also a good show to watch a second time around so you can catch all the details you missed from the first viewing. I’d like to apologise to Laura for hating her character at the beginning. She was so unfairly treated. Like the innocent passing motorist whose name is Daniel, Laura didn’t deserve to die. To honor them, #pressplay.