There's a large gap between what Joaquín Oristrell's Unconscious sets out to do and what it actually manages to accomplish. The film purports to question sexual taboos, but it mostly trots them briefly across the stage as if working from a dreary checklist. It's supposedly set in 1913 Barcelona, but the nods to time and place mostly come in the form of Sigmund Freud as a McGuffin, and Luis Tosar's comically awful muttonchop beard. Finally, Unconscious seems like it was meant to be a combination of a gripping mystery, a sexy farce, and a witty, wacky comedy in Pedro Almodóvar mode. But while the content is colorful and the actors seem up for the task, a flawed script and Oristrell's unemphatic direction let all the impact dribble away.


The action starts when Leonor Watling (Talk To Her) comes home to find psychiatrist husband Alex Brendemühl in tears; he says he's loved her but he must go, and if he tells her what's going on, "they'll kill you." Then he flees. Plucky and dauntless even while nine months pregnant, Watling investigates, dragging her sad-sack brother-in-law (Tosar) into the quest. Randomly deciding that Brendemühl's Freudian study of four women holds the key, Watling and Tosar bumble into one bad situation after another, penetrating a porn ring, a transvestite social club, a brothel, and an asylum while trying to question Brendemühl's patients.

It all sounds charmingly risqué, but Oristrell and his co-writers Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri (who also worked with him on No Shame and Novios) let the story whiz by as a series of distracted vignettes that never seem particularly connected, and rarely have any purpose or impact. Mostly, they're milestones for the larger plot, in which Tosar's marriage disintegrates as facts about his unusual penis size and his crush on Watling emerge. The film's best moments deal directly with this plot, as when Tosar accidentally hypnotizes himself and, Office Space-style, drops his many inhibitions and lets all his secrets fly. And the film's ending does wrap everything into a neat package, explaining all the airy, uncompelling fluff leading up to it. But it's a shame when a movie can't make kinky sex interesting without a convoluted explanation. And it's odd to come out of a film wanting to see it again to get all the threads straight, while simultaneously wanting to have not bothered watching it the first time.