Writer-director Martín Kraut presents The Dose (La Dosis) a slow-burning Argentine thriller that sees an introspective nurse pushed to breaking point in a game of manipulation. Whilst the tension of The Dose quietly simmers and reaches an impressive crescendo, it could benefit from paying further focus to its underlying queer themes.
Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) is an experienced nurse who works the night shift in a private medical clinic – wholly devoted to his job, Marcos has failed to make any strong bonds with his colleagues and his introspective nature makes him something of an outsider. Attempting to execute compassion, Marcos euthanises patients with little chance of recovery. The arrival of new colleague Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers) sees Marcos feel threatened; he is quick to form friendships, gains the praise of superiors, and has a similar approach to discreetly euthanising patients – yet his motives are more sinister.
Whilst Marcos is sullen and closed-off, The Dose’s opening scene shows his skill at his job – a patient is pronounced dead yet his persistence sees her revived – yet filmmaker Martín Kraut explores this slowly unravelling as the feature progresses. Marcos is already delving into dark territory by unauthorised euthanisations but this escalates when Gabriel arrives. Whilst Gabriel is initially warm to Marcos through offering lifts and inviting him on nights out, mind games and manipulation begin to take hold ensnaring Marcos, whether it be Gabriel changing his shifts or failing to report to maintenance when his colleague is trapped in a lift.
These slow-burning developments gain momentum when Marcos uncovers Gabriel has been performing euthanasia with the introverted nurse noting he does so out of pity, Gabriel out of pleasure. Kraut captures an intriguing tonal style with hysteria building – Marcos becomes obsessed with Gabriel: hallucinating, mistakenly seeing him and desperately attempting to delve into his background. There is a frantic Hitchockian drive and suspension as Marcos grows further drawn into his colleague’s games with homoerotic undertones of sexual desire suggested. These are lightly touched upon with Marcos clearly drawn to his magnetic colleague as displayed in a scene where Marcos pretends to be asleep as Gabriel and a colleague get intimate or tense scene at a gay bar. The Dose would benefit from embracing these queer undertones further with Marcos’s desire for Gabriel one of the film’s more interesting albeit downplayed angles.
Shot with a dusky grey and dark green colour palette, The Dose aesthetically mirrors its brooding thematic tones. With Marcos working night shift, many of the scenes benefit from the moody atmosphere of the night-time setting with a disorientating gauze falling over proceedings. Cinematographer Gustavo Biazzi’s shooting of the claustrophobic hospital interiors which dominate much of the settings also serve as an intriguing parallel to the clammy, suspicious scenario which befalls Marcos and his manipulative new colleague.
The Dose is a well-crafted glimpse into manipulation and power’s links with ethical conduct told through a tale with slight queer undertones. An initially stoic turn from Carlos Portaluppi examines the breaking point of a guarded, introverted individual, whilst Ignacio Rogers’ delivers Gabriel’s masterclass of manipulation with a serpentine skill.