No matter what you say about Netflix, there’s one thing it can still claim over its rivals: an incredibly rich vein of international titles.
The Platform, Dark, Lupin, Squid Game, The Call — these slick, unique, compelling offerings trundled out on Netflix’s conveyor belt and we lapped them up, shattering the 1-inch subtitle barrier in our wake.
And now it’s time to whet your appetite for more! The next film you should give a chance is 2018’s Mirage.
The Spanish sci-fi drama comes from Oriol Paulo, a director and screenwriter who’s made a habit of creating smart mystery thrillers. (His latest, God’s Crooked Lines, just hit Netflix.) Mirage is one of his best, hinging on a time travel puzzle that’s resolved in a satisfyingly unpredictable fashion.
Adriana Ugarte stars as Vera Roy, a mother who stumbles on a device that lets her talk to the past. The opportunity only lasts over the course of a huge electrical storm, so of course there are a couple of references to Back to the Future.
Vera chooses to use this miraculous discovery for good but unknowingly changes her own timeline in doing so. Suddenly, her insanely cute daughter no longer exists. To amend this travesty, Vera sets off on a clue-hunting mission, tracking down exactly how her life was altered, sourcing allies who’ll believe her outlandish predicament and finding a way back to her old life, without committing any immoral acts.
This kind of time travel predicament is somewhat familiar, so it feels like you can second guess every path Mirage starts to lead you down. Luckily, Mirage is much smarter than the average Netflix thriller, and also has a huge asset in Ugarte’s moving performance. It’s a little reminiscent of Margaret Qualley’s in Maid: You really feel the love and desperation in her plight to save her child.
Revenge and romance round out Mirage’s artillery. Then, in its final act, it incorporates a time pressure element, a countdown that threatens to trap Vera in a point of no return. This all sets up several gratifying twists.
Always focused on the human drama, Mirage never goes into full-blown sci-fi mode, but it cleverly evokes an eerie atmosphere with a dark, creeping opening that winds up the tension, akin to Stranger Things. It helps that it’s partially set in the ’80s. People impossibly communicate through unexpected devices, news reports drop unsubtle hints at mysterious happenings, and a nerdy kid sings a period song in a happy-sad way.
Mirage also stars Álvaro Morte, best known worldwide as playing The Professor in Money Heist. Here, he plays Vera’s husband David. He’s handsome and charming and definitely hiding something.
Mirage takes the most effective approach to what could be an overly complicated time travel concept, mining strong performances and striking an emotionally satisfying conclusion. It’s the kind of neat package that envelopes you in its world for 128 minutes (yes, it could be a tad shorter), then flings you out with a full, contented glow.