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Film / The Invisible Guest

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The Invisible Guest (Spanish: Contratiempo) is a 2016 Spanish-language suspense film and the second feature film by director Oriol Paulo, following The Body (2012).

Adrian Doria, a successful businessman, has been charged with murder. To defend his innocence, he has hired Virginia Goodman, the country's best witness trainer, and over one night they work together to clarify what happened in a frenetic race against time.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Atoner: Laura supposedly turns into one when she decides to confess everything to Daniel's parents and make Adrian pay them €100,000 as a token of redemption. It doesn't end well for her.
  • Balcony Escape: Goodman's theory of how Tomás Garrido got out of the hotel room involves him switching rooms via the window.
  • Batman Gambit: A plan relies on acting confident and natural enough that the mark will never think of checking the files you brought or the note you're writing.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Adrian's story and overall demeanor paint himself as a well-meaning and empathetic family man who merely made some mistakes, and who was wrongly framed for the murder of his lover. By the end, it's revealed he's a cold and self-serving bastard who not only committed murder but also went through great lengths to cover it up and lied about it to make himself seem like an innocent victim.
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  • Blackmail: We are to assume that the bypassing driver blackmailed Adrian for €100,000. As it turns out, he didn't. That was just a ploy by Laura to get the family some money as part of her trying to take responsibility for the murder.
  • Caught on Tape: A bugged ball-point pen is used to record Adrian's confession.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The golden lighter in the car which Tomás Garrido later sees again on Adrian.
    • The fact that Elvira and Tomás met during acting classes is mentioned in passing but later becomes a plot point.
    • When Adrian mentions a particularly dark part of the story, Virginia seems to get flustered and starts loudly throwing all sorts of insults at him, when he responds she claims it was an example of what the prosecution would do to get him to display that same behavior in front of the judge. This makes much more sense when you know she's actually Elvira having just found out that her son's death wasn't just covered up, but that he was actually murdered.
  • Crime After Crime: It starts with a completely accidental death, to cover that they get rid of the body and the car, to cover that they get rid of their own car and lie to the police saying it was stolen, then they have to falsify an alibi, then they have to frame the deceased for embezzlement, after the reveal it's added that Adrian actually murdered Daniel and also Laura, both in an attempt to maintain the coverup.
  • Dead Man's Chest: When a driver approaches the site of the car accident, Laura pushes the corpse of the young driver down so it won't be seen. She then notices blood dropping from the car and tries to conceal it with her legs. The coup worked if only for some time.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Goodman makes Adrian confess to his crimes in private while their conversation is actually being Caught on Tape.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over one night excluding the flashback sequences.
  • Femme Fatale: Discussed. Virginia points out that Laura seems very much like this in Adrian's story, with her taking the initiative in covering up the murder and using unscrupulous means to keep the truth hidden. Her tone of voice implies a certain skepticism at this characterization. By the end, it's revealed to be a total lie by Adrian, who was responsible for all the things he accused Laura of doing.
  • Foreign Remake: A Bollywood remake of the film, titled Badla ('revenge' in Hindi) was released in early 2019. It is a very faithful adaptation, with the exception of the setting being moved to Scotland from Spain, and the genders of the main characters being reversed.
  • Frame-Up: Adrian is accused of having murdered his lover Laura and now tries to clear his name. He claims that somebody else was in the room who set him up for being the murderer.
  • Gambit Roulette: Everything would've been completely wrecked if the real Virginia had arrived at any point of the conversation. However, it seems Elvira knew when she was supposed to arrive, intentionally arriving three hours before the real Virginia was scheduled.
  • Hollywood Driving:
    • The car accident was caused by Adrian looking at Laura instead of focusing on the road ahead.
    • Later we also see Laura looking at Adrian in the co-driver seat for an extended period of time.
  • Interrogation Flashback: The plot unfolds in flashbacks as Adrian retells his story to his witness trainer Virginia.
  • Ironic Name: Virginia Goodman. For Adrian, anyway.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Adrian and Laura's Dark Secret takes its toll on them. Laura has mental breakdowns ever since and Adrian goes as far as killing Laura in order to uphold the masquerade.
  • Lady Macbeth: Adrian wanted to just call an ambulance and face the consequences of the cheating and the accident, but Laura pushes him to do more and more questionable things in an attempt to get scot-free of it all. Or so he claims, it was actually the other way around.
  • Latex Perfection: Averted, the impersonation uses a few silicone prosthetics and is far from perfect, but just convincing enough to fool someone who has never actually met the real person.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Part of Adrian's puzzling case is how Laura's murderer got in and out of the locked hotel room without a trace. Turns out there was no third person in the room. Adrian killed Laura himself.
  • Mirror Scare: In one of Adrian's flashbacks, Tomás Garrido suddenly appears behind him in the hotel room mirror.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: Daniel Garrido's mother uses the fact that Adrian doesn't know what Virginia Goodman looks like to her advantage and assumes Virginia's identity to get under Adrian's skin.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Twice, the first one when we see again fragments of all the interaction between Laura and Adrian, this time with all the facts discovered so far. The second one when we see fragments of the conversation had during the night, this time knowing that Virginia is actually Elvira.
  • One Last Job: It is mentioned that Virginia Goodman came back from retirement for this one job of defending Adrian.
  • Posthumous Character: The murder victim Laura is reconstructed via Adrian's flashbacks, although those flashbacks cannot be trusted.
  • Punk in the Trunk: The body of the dead driver is stuffed into the trunk of his own car, which Adrian then dumps into the reservoir.
  • The Reveal: Several twists unfold towards the end of the movie.
    • Adrian killed Laura himself in that hotel room.
    • Daniel was still alive and drowned in his car.
    • Virginia Goodman is actually Elvira Garrido.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: After Adrian confesses one of the darkest things he did to maintain the coverup, Virginia starts calling him all sorts of names, Adrian suggests she's just testing him and she claims that was the case. However, since she's actually Elvira, it's more likely it was sincere and she went with Adrian's justification to maintain the charade.
  • Tap on the Head: Adrian gets smashed into the hotel room mirror which conveniently knocks him out until after Laura is murdered. Well, until it gets revealed that he inflicted the head wound himself to make it look like there was somebody else in the room.
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: We learn that Daniel was still alive when Adrian shoved the sedan into the lake, which is followed by some disturbing images of him drowning in the trunk.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Adrian's flashbacks turn out to be untrustworthy as he switches his and Laura's roles in the aftermath of the car accident as well as invented a murderer who didn't exist.
  • Vehicle Vanish: From the diner Adrian notices Tomás Garrido watching him from the other side of the road but the figure is gone after a truck rushes by. He probably only imagined the sighting to begin with.
  • Walking Spoiler: Both our main characters are involved in enormous twists so it's really hard to describe either of them without ruining the point of the movie.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Elvira uses a wig and some silicone mask to conceal her identity from Adrian. It helps that he only knew her from photographs.