Dot the i

Although Dot the i debuted at Sundance in January 2003, it took two years before its producers finally wrangled a US theatrical release for it (after it played in dozens of other countries first). One must blame some bad distribution deal for that, especially since its star, Gael García Bernal, was already white-hot art house box office material by then. Or maybe it's because it's just not that great of a movie.

The opening sequence sets the tone: Carmen (Natalia Verbeke), a young Spanish woman living in London and about to marry, is out on a "hen night" with her friends at a fancy French restaurant. Dared by the management to kiss her singlehood goodbye by planting a smooch on the most handsome man in the room, she chooses Kit (Bernal), who has been somewhat inexplicably videotaping her with his buddies at the end of the table. That kiss between them winds up being more intense than Carmen expected, and it throws her marriage plans to the dull Brit Barnaby (James d'Arcy) out of whack.

It seems like another tiresome love triangle, but from the get-go, with sudden cuts to mysterious POV shots of somebody videotaping private scenes, and other split-second cuts that may either be flashbacks or flash-forwards, you get the feeling that - everybody now - things are not as they seem. So watching Dot the i becomes an exercise in "guess the plot twist". And when it eventually comes, it's neither surprising nor disappointing. It's just there. "Ah," you say. "So that's the twist. Okay." To writer-director Parkhill's credit, he pulls a Vertigo and keeps his story unfurling for another 15-20 minutes even after the big reveal, which adds some suspense, but because there's no substance to back up the gimmickry, Dot the i is finally unsatisfying. Like most contemporary young British filmmakers, I think Parkhill is too preoccupied with being clever.