BFI Flare 2021

The Dose review – ghostly thriller wastes an interesting premise

A nurse suspects the motives of his charismatic new colleague in a dull hospital drama that fails to cash in on its leads' chemistry

Deep within the pallid walls of a private clinic, ICU nurse Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) harbours a dark secret: he puts an end to the suffering of terminally ill patients via euthanasia. For years, this self-appointed angel of death has been able to carry out his seemingly altruistic crimes with no interruption. That all changes with the sudden arrival of new nurse Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers). Gabriel, it turns out, has a similar secret, but with far more sinister intentions.

Perturbed by the recent addition to the workforce, it's Marcos’ sanity that begins to spiral in Martín Kraut’s psychological thriller The Dose. Gabriel is handsome and charming, effortlessly socialising with the other nurses and departments – something that loner Marcos has always found difficult. Gabriel drip feeds his way into Marcos’ life: firstly by unexpectedly appearing round every corner, and later by coercing him into sharing rides into work. Moments where they are apart become suffocatingly infrequent. Despite his sinister aura, Gabriel has a sensuality to him that Marcos cannot ignore – between these two men, even the sutures used to mend injured fingers come with a sexual charge.

The Dose is not exactly a supernatural horror, but a certain ghostliness presides over the entirety of the film; the camera lingers on empty spaces as if in anticipation of a hidden presence, while characters' shadows and shapes reflect in windows and polished medical machinery, creating uncanny doubles. Accompanied by frantic orchestral strings to emphasise the wildly unsettling tone of its tensest moments, The Dose sets itself up as a promising queer thriller. Except, it never delivers.

Maintaining one mood throughout, this middling psychological drama fails to excite and quickly comes to feel like a drag. Armed with all the elements to go all out and shock with clever twists and turns, the film – overlong at just 93 minutes – settles on tired narrative conventions and a story that seems intent on playing by the book. The most shocking thing is how anti-climatic it all is.

The excellent chemistry between Portaluppi and Rogers – who both offer chilling performances – ultimately goes to waste, their cat and mouse game never reaching its full, disturbing potential. It isn't long before The Dose leaves you wishing someone like Marcos would come along to put you out of your misery.

The Dose was screened as part of the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival 2021. A UK release date is yet to be announced.

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