Fantastic Fest: The Coffee Table (2023)

Director: Caye Casas

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Starring: David Pareja, Estefanía de los Santos, Claudia Riera, Josep Riera, Itziar Castro, Emilio Gavira, Claudia Font

Director Caye Casas opens his latest work in a furniture store, where a sleazy salesman is trying to sell a family a coffee table - designed as a pane of supposedly unbreakable glass held aloft by two gold, naked ladies. María (Estefanía de los Santos) hates the tacky table, however Jesús (David Pareja) thinks it is perfect for them.

Tensions are rife between the new parents, as Jesús claims that he never gets to pick anything in this marriage. From the wedding details, to the colour of their apartment, and even when they had a baby, the husband claims that María calls all the shots and decides that this table is when he will take a stand. "It will change your life" claims the salesman, and he is certainly right about that.

Co-written by Casas and Cristina Borobia, the screenplay takes this story down heart-stopping avenues which should not be spoiled. Without going into details, the direction taken will floor viewers as it depicts male anxieties over aging and fatherhood exacerbated within this pitch-black tone. Bringing it alive is a taut direction which crafts a sense of foreboding amidst the horrific circumstances.

Central to it are Pareja and Santos, who effectively capture this couple who remain in love, yet find the pregnancy has strained their relationship and led them to grow distant. They are the heart of this tragic tale, where evident cracks appear under pressure and lines carry heartbreaking impact in hindsight. What has been crafted is one of the bleakest and most unrelentingly cruel films you'll see at a festival this year, yet it has not left my mind since viewing it.

The Coffee Table screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2023