Thirst (2023) Movie Review: A Paranoid Domestic Thriller With More Bark Than Bite

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In today’s era riddled with paranoia, art and media inevitably mirror our susceptibility to conspiracy theories. The film ‘Thirst’ (2023), written and directed by Eric Owen, adds another layer to the realm of conspiracy thrillers, finding its natural place in our current times. With the internet flooded with speculations about aliens, pandemics, and shadowy organizations, trust in conventional governments appears to be at an all-time low. These theories all share an undercurrent of fear and distrust, potent emotions that cinema can effectively harness. Eric Owen endeavors to tap into these prevailing tensions in his project, aiming to deliver a riveting blend of drama and suspense. However, ‘Thirst’ only achieves partial success due to a wandering screenplay and heavy-handed direction.”

Plot Summary : Family And Friends

The storyline centers around Jose (portrayed by Brian Villalobos) and his spouse, Lucy (played by Lori Kovacevich), a mature couple embarking on a journey to start a family. Jose is wholeheartedly committed to advancing in his career within a reputable firm, but he grapples with sleepless nights and haunting premonitions (we’ll delve into those shortly). Concurrently, Jose’s half-sister Vickey (brought to life by Federica Estaba Rangel) finds herself entangled in a tumultuous romance with a musician and occasional conspiracy enthusiast named Lisa (expertly portrayed by Stephanie Slayton).

This family’s story interweaves with their close-knit circle of friends, including Sarah (depicted by Sarah Jack) and Dom (superbly played by P. Michael Hayes II), as well as Trent (brought to life by Scotty Walker), a dedicated neighborhood yard worker who exhibits unique qualities related to the autism spectrum.

Thirst: Domestic Drama Unveiled

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“As time marches forward, this ensemble of characters finds themselves ensnared in a potential conspiracy, testing the bonds that hold them together. While we can’t divulge the precise details of this conspiracy to avoid spoiling the film, it’s important to note that it leans toward the ordinary. Thirst doesn’t aim to captivate audiences with an elaborate conspiracy theory; instead, it delves into the domestic upheaval that befalls families in times of crisis. The movie prioritizes drama over the logistical intricacies of the family’s ordeal.

In this regard, Thirst distinguishes itself from films like Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, which thrive on procedural intricacies. Thirst thrives on various facets of domestic drama, and there’s an abundance of it. Owen’s screenplay seems to draw inspiration from the experiences of lockdown during the recent pandemic. When the characters become aware of the conspiracy in Thirst, they find refuge in their homes, igniting escalating tensions and propelling the story forward. Jose and Lucy grapple with doubts about their readiness for parenthood, while Vickey and Lisa confront the challenges in their relationship. Close proximity fuels conflict, which, in turn, fuels desperation.”

Thirst Film Critique review

Regrettably, Owen’s approach to igniting conflict in the story feels far from natural. He relies heavily on contrived elements like a staged burglary and an artificially induced shortage of resources, leaving the characters in the film to suffer primarily due to their inability to obtain a crucial commodity (which I won’t reveal here to avoid spoilers). This scarcity seems forced and could have easily been resolved with more inventive use of everyday utilities or modern delivery services like Amazon. Owen’s script glosses over these details with superficial lines of dialogue, dismissing straightforward solutions to the characters’ predicament. A deeper attention to these details could have fostered greater empathy from the audience toward the characters. As it stands, Jose and his companions come across as uninformed.

The script shoulders much of the blame for this, as the main cast delivers commendable performances. Villalobos, in particular, skillfully portrays Jose’s conveniently timed anger issues with authenticity, while Kovacevich’s portrayal of Lucy feels genuine and relatable. Less successful are the antagonists introduced late in the story, appearing excessively evil and irrational. However, even they are not the weakest link in Thirst. The treatment of the character Trent resembles a character straight out of a horror movie, presented in a manner akin to a jump scare with every entrance. Owen’s handling of mental illness in this context is unclear and, frankly, in poor taste. This aspect stands out as the film’s most significant flaw.

These are just a few of the reasons why Thirst falls short of truly resonating with its audience. As the story progresses, Jose’s visions and anxieties appear exaggerated in response to the unfolding events. Owen’s placement and presentation of these visions also seem disconnected from the later revelations in the script. Scenes featuring Jose in a dimly lit room, illuminated by a single point of light and staring directly into the camera, come across as absurd once their purpose becomes evident (it doesn’t help that Villalobos lacks a mustache in these visions, presumably to ensure viewers can see his nosebleed). These sequences likely aimed to depict how paranoia can push individuals to the brink of insanity, but that intention fails to translate effectively in Thirst.

Owen’s focus on the family unit during challenging times falls short of resonating with the audience. The final title card, seemingly pandering, adds to the overall confusion by prioritizing a message over a cohesive narrative. Consequently, the film leaves viewers with a jumbled collection of incomplete ideas, lacking a clear takeaway.

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