Brief synopsis: a narcissistic paramedic, who is struggling to have a child with his partner, life is changed when he is in a tragic traffic accident that results in him ending up in a wheelchair. Jealously and paranoia see him acting in a most dangerous and unpredictable fashion.
Is it any good?: The Paramedic (El Practicante – in Spanish, original title), is a moderately entertaining chiller that is let down a little by being more atmosphere than execution. The acting is top class and the film looks beautiful and the story and editing are done in such a way not to insult the audience intelligence but, unfortunately, other elements of the film do not live up to the promise.
Spoiler territory: arriving at the scene of a car crash, paramedics Ángel (Mario Casas) and Ricardo (Guillermo Pfening) tend quickly to the wounded and distressed. As Ángel helps a woman from the wreckage of her car, Ricardo goes to check on the passengers of the other car which is flipped on its roof.
As other paramedics arrive to help, Ángel uses the confusion and activity to steal a pair of sunglasses from one of the cars in the crash. Later, Ángel is aggressively making love to his girlfriend, Vane (Déborah François), before she leaves for work. After she leaves, he goes and hides the sunglasses he took from the scene of the crash in a cupboard.
Back at work, Ángel and Ricardo take a call. When they arrive at the address, they find an old woman in bed. Ricardo checks her pulse. She is already dead. He calls the coroner, leaving the room as he makes the call. Ángel goes through the woman’s valuables in the room.
Later, Ángel meets Fermín (Raúl Jiminéz) and looks to sell the items he found in the room. He returns home and is in a foul mood after stepping in the mess created by their neighbour, Vicente’s (Celso Bagallo) dog. Vane tells him that her period has come, meaning she is not pregnant. He suggests she see a gynaecologist. Vane says the problem might not be with her. Ángel, his manhood wounded, says the problem could be psychological.
He goes to see a doctor the next day. He finds out that he has a low sperm count and getting someone pregnant would be difficult for him. He does not tell Vane. Back at home, whilst Vane is in the shower, Ángel goes through her phone.
At the hospital, Ángel gets drugs from Andrés (Pol Monen), a young doctor he knows. He and Ricardo go to another accident. They pick up an injured young man and Ricardo is driving as Ángel tends to the man. The man begins to convulse, distracting Ricardo. As Ángel tries to stabilise him, the ambulance gets hit by a truck.
Ángel ends up wheelchair-bound. Their relationship already strained, Ángel’s condition pushes his jealously and paranoia to another level. As he tries to adapt to his need life, Ángel comes across a spy app that he can use to track Vane. The relationship continues to be strained.
Ricardo comes to visit Ángel. Ángel is not happy to see him, feeling that it is his fault that he is in a wheelchair. Later, before Vane leave for work, Ángel asks her to go and get him some ice cream. Whilst she is out, he installs the spy app on her phone.
He bumps into his neighbour, Vicente. Vicente is walking his dog. Ángel remarks how much the dog barks at night. Vicente tells him that he goes to see his sick wife in hospital at night and has to leave the dog alone. Later, in the evening, Vane is nervous as she tells Ángel about a possible work placement.
Ángel wants to know what they will live on if she is earning less. He is not at all supportive of her pursuit of a veterinary career. Vane goes to work. He uses the spyware to watch her at work. During there night, Ángel is awoken by pain from his injuries. He tries to call Vane but the calls go to her voicemail.
He finds some painkillers in the kitchen and takes a couple. He hides the rest of them. When Vane returns from work in the morning, he accuses her of leaving him without pain medication. She swears that there were painkillers in the kitchen. Later in the day, he threads needles into a raw piece of meat.
Ángel goes to the park where Vicente walks his dog. He feeds the meat to the dog. Back in the apartment, Ángel listens in on a conversation Vane is having with a friend. She tells her friend how difficult her relationship is becoming and how she is not sure she can stand much more. Spurred by the conversation, Ángel tries to woo Vane and cooks a romantic dinner for them both.
He tells her that he will support her dream of becoming a vet. They will also try even harder to have a baby. They make love. Afterwards, Ángel is in the shower and Vane hears his computer chiming. She goes and checks his screen and discovers the spyware. She packs her belongings and leaves.
Some months later, Ángel decides to go and spy on Vane again. He waits outside of her workplace and sees Ricardo come to pick her up. He follows them and sees them go to a baby shop. They are having a baby. ÁNGEL goes to see Andres and gets some drugs.
The next day, Ángel goes to meet Vane. He tells her she was right to leave him and intimates that he is going to end his life. She walks him back to his apartment. Retells her that he packed up her belongings and she can collect them. As she is distracted, looking for her things, he tranquillises her.
Vane wakes up tied to a bed and gagged. Ángel puts on loud music to drown out her muffled cries. He goes and finds her mobile. She has multiple messages from Ricardo on it. He texts Ricardo a message from the phone telling him that she has left him. He throws the phone into a river. Back in the apartment, Ángel tells Vane he saw Ricardo and knows they are having a child. She begs him to release her and starts screaming again. He gags her and tranquillises her again.
Vicente comes and complains about the music. Ángel gives him short shrift, telling him he had to put up with his dog for months. Vicente says he heard screaming from his apartment. Ángel lies, saying it was a prostitute.
Ricardo seeks out Ángel. He tells him that Vane is missing and that they are together. Ángel tells him he has not seen her. Back with Vane, she finds that Ángel has given her an epidural making her legs stop working. Ángel receives a voicemail from a desperate Ricardo. He is going to call the police.
During dinner, Vane smashes a bottle into Ángel’s head and tries to escape, screaming for help. He recovers and tranquillises her again but not before her screaming alerts Vicente. The neighbour comes looking for her. Forced to allow the persistent Vicente into his home, Ángel stabs him to death. He calls Fermin and pays him to get rid of the body.
The police come to see Ángel. Ricardo has reported Vane missing and he used to live with her. Ángel tells them that she told him she was returning to France. Ángel had used Vane’s keys to go and kill Ricardo, making it look like a drug-related death.
Ángel continues to plan a life with Vane and Ricardo’s baby, going so far as to tell her he will marry her when he trusts her. Vane gets hold of nail clippers whilst in the bathroom. Later in the night, Ángel goes to the pharmacy to get some medication for Vane, thinking she is sick. She takes the opportunity to escape her bonds using the nail clippers.
Her legs still weakened from the drugs, she struggles to get out of the room he has her locked in, dragging her self to the door and using a screwdriver to break the lock. She gets out of the apartment and is making her way out when Ángel returns. Vane stumbles to the stairs and falls down them. Ángel goes after her, throw himself down the stairs. The two fight. She stabs him with the screwdriver and pushes him into the stairwell. He falls several storeys, to the ground.
Sometime later, a tetraplegic Ángel is in a hospital. A heavily pregnant Vane comes to get him. She tells him, somewhat chillingly, that she is going to look after him. The end.
Final thoughts: The Paramedic is an okay chiller mostly because of Casas’ central performance. He oozes unease throughout the entire film, an air of disdain for all around him never far from his face. François’ Vane is perfectly cast, a woman in the wrong relationship even before the accident pushes Ángel further into his neurosis.
Written by David Desola, Héctor Hernández Vicens and Carles Torras, with Torras also on directing duties, The Paramedic does at least treat its viewers like adults. After the accident, we move straight to the difficulties of Ángel’s new reality. There are no scenes of him being told he is not going to walk again or discovering he has to give up his work. They are not necessary.
Torras lets the actors do the work and they reward him with great performances. The strength of Cosas’ performance certainly helps with covering the script’s deficiencies and shortcomings, with some characters not given enough screen time to allow one to realise their necessity to the plot.
The film does move quite quickly through its ninety-four-minute runtime and the sense of foreboding builds quite nicely as Ángel implements his mad plan. The only thing that lets the film down is the slightly psychological ending, with Vane deciding to become a sort of jailer/helper for the tetraplegic Ángel. It seemed, to me at least, as though she was setting herself up for a lifetime of punishment. With an impending birth as well to contend with.
The Paramedic is, nonetheless, quite entertaining and well made. It worth a watch for the two central performances and the almost great story.