Set in the Basque region of Spain, The Deer (original name Oreina) is a film about the changing social and cultural landscape of the country and the meeting of the old and new, with the subsequent contention being the driving force behind the film. It follows Khalil, a twenty-something who immigrated to Spain as a child and does odd jobs (many of them criminal) to fund his studies, and the friendship he has formed with the much older José Ramón, a poacher. Adding to the mix is Martín, José Ramón’s brother whose homosexuality is the primary reason the pair are not on speaking terms.
There are a lot of dramatic elements to the film, but all of them are at odds with one another. On the one hand, there is the fact that Khalil and José Ramón’s midnight poaching excursions are being tracked by the park rangers, but this never comes to fruition. On the other is the subtext of racism and homophobia practiced by many of the secondary characters which is never fully explored. As a result, The Deer feels very unsure of itself.
Despite this, there is promise in the film. Koldo Almandoz clearly knows how to capture beautiful vistas on camera and a serene level of calmness pervades many of the scenes as a result. Similarly, each of the three main actors give good turns in their respective roles, but it’s just a shame that the drama never reaches a real denouement so that their potential can be fully realised.
Ultimately, The Deer is fine as a film, and if one enjoys film analysis and wishes to delve deeply into the social commentary there’s a lot to unpack. But for those unwilling to take an academic approach, it is sadly a very shallow film in which nothing really happens.