I think the director was trying to evoke the stylistic memory of Hitchcock while piggybacking on the success of The Orphanage when he made the beautiful yet contrived Hierro.
After losing her young son on a short ferry journey, Maria, played by Elena Anaya, is invited back to the island of El Hierro to identify a body. It’s during this short trip that she discovers her son is not the only boy missing on the island.
Hierro suffers from its own ambition. After an absolutely stunning, atmospheric title sequence, Hierro soaks its audience in sticky dream imagery, a haunting score and a slow burn pace. Despite a runtime of beautiful cinematography and excellent acting, it’s the story that falls flat and stops this psychological tragedy thriller from being considered up there with the best Spanish films of the last ten years.
The biggest problem is that the twists are so obvious it makes the pace of the movie quite unsatisfying. It was quite an odd experience during this film going from loving the nuances of the plot unfolding, to getting bored and fidgety, to wondering if what I thought was real (in a good way), to seeing where it was going and having to wait, what felt like an age, to find out that I was indeed correct. I desperately wanted to love this film because it looks fantastic and I’m a sucker for good cinematography and ambitious camera work but again, the story lets it down to be considered a full-on success.
It is dressed up in an art-house manner, but the story is a simple one of a mother’s unconditional love of a child and is nothing more than that. Despite its flaws, scizophrenic storytelling and often frustrating pacing issues, Hierro is ambitious, looks beautiful and has some fantastic acting throughout. If you have a spare evening and this is on the TV or available to watch for free, it’s worth a shot.