Presented as a single shot, Hugo Ruíz’s ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA is a revenge thriller that follows the titular Adela throughout a single night in real-time. Laura Galán, who made her star turn in 2022’s Piggy, takes on a very different kind of lead role as the disturbed young woman who embarks on a personal journey to get back at those who’ve wronged her.
Meet Adela. She’s a street sweeper who just finished her shift for the night. As she wanders the empty streets of Madrid, she lights a cigarette and inhales deeply. It’s one of the only things capable of calming her nerves. It’s not long before a car of obnoxious young men pulls up alongside her. They proceed to catcall her, mock her appearance, and finally invite her to a party. They don’t faze her, though. She has seemingly dealt with this type of behavior before. One of the men exits the car and attempts to assault and rob her in an alley. Needless to say, it does not bode well for him, but by the end of the night, it becomes clear that this vicious encounter is really the least of her concerns. She’s a street sweeper with other messes to clean up.
In Piggy, Galán’s character was easy to root for. She’s a lonely girl mercilessly bullied by her classmates who happens to find herself in a horror movie scenario. With Adela, she’s not as straightforwardly sympathetic a character, but Galán once again proves that she’s a compelling performer more than capable of commanding an audience’s attention.
We don’t really know much of anything about Adela at the start. She doesn’t care for her work and she definitely gets a lot of shit for being a woman with a “masculine” job. She seems to turn to drugs and sex as coping mechanisms. We also know that she’s a fan of a radio show that invites listeners to call in and talk about their problems. Adela anonymously calls the host, Gemma, throughout the course of the night to vent about her life. She also reveals to Gemma that she intends to hurt someone before the night is over. She explains that it’s something she has thought about for quite a while, citing that her “soul is rotten” and has been for a long time. These talks with Gemma drive the story forward, providing a glimpse into Adela’s psyche, backstory, and motivations.
The biggest advantage of the single-shot gimmick is that we’re left wondering where this is all heading. Combined with her erratic behavior, it’s a journey that will leave many scratching their heads. It’s not until the last half hour or so that ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA drops a truly shocking revelation onto its audience. Because so much of the film functions as a waiting game, it’s easy to imagine that a scene like this will either appease or lose viewers entirely. It certainly caught me off guard, though I can’t help but wonder how the whole experience would hold up on a second watch with knowledge of the destination.
Many will inevitably turn away from a lead as messy and unhinged as Adela, while patient viewers might get a kick out of a particular spin on a revenge narrative. By the time the night had ended, I was left unsure of how I felt about the ride overall but damned if it wasn’t just that.
ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA had its world premiere at Tribeca Festival on June 8th, 2023.