Manuel (Antonio de la Torre), an influential deputy secretary of a regional government, appears to be about to make the crucial leap into national politics. However, when news breaks regarding his involvement in a corruption ring, he is expected by his party to take full responsibility. As a result, Manuel is caught in a race against time to clear his name and take down the others involved in the corruption who have absolved themselves through using him as a scapegoat.
This film effectively serves as a darkly comedic look at how political corruption affects one man as we follow the gradual unravelling of Manuel’s life as he frantically tries to avoid punishment for his involvement in the corruption scandal. This is helped by an involving, high-energy performance from de la Torre, who convincingly depicts Manuel’s growing desperation.
In particular, a latter sequence involving his frantic attempts to obtain some incriminating documents from a colleague’s house whilst a house party is taking place serves as a fine example of how far de la Torre is willing to go, with his depiction of Manuel busting down the door to the colleague’s office and scuffling with one of the guests showcasing a manic energy that amps up the tension of the scene.
However, the climax of the film falters somewhat, with Manuel’s exchanges with TV reporter Amaia (Barbara Lennie) regarding his motivations for exposing his colleagues appearing a little too didactic and obvious to fit neatly with the otherwise naturalistic tone of the rest of the film. A conclusion with more subtle dialogue could have conveyed issues such as the concerns about the extent of corruption within the Spanish establishment and Manuel’s reasons for his whistle-blowing in a less overt manner.
Nevertheless, The Candidate is a well-directed and acted film that uses one politician’s story to highlight the extent of political corruption in Spain which manages to balance tension with dark comedy to great effect.