FREEHOLD (2017) Dominic Bridges
Hussein is a wannabe ruthless, but ultimately naive estate agent. His bachelor flat is a slovenly shrine to his cash rich, time poor lifestyle. His cupboards are bare, and he’s on first name terms with his local pizza delivery service. Problem is his girlfriend, Mel, is moving in and curtailing this young buck's idyllic man cave existence. If only that was his sole concern. There's someone else living in the apartment, but neither Hussein nor Mel invited him to stay. Orlan (Javier Botet,) is a tall, painfully skinny Spanish man secretly living in a wall space behind the wardrobe or sometimes right under the bed. Botet's dark jester's performance is as eerie, as it is fascinating. He rarely speaks and when he does it appears to delineate from the narrative of the movie. But you know, whether it was at the hand of Hussein or not, this is some kind of revenge on the estate agents for a shitty deal turned family tragedy.
When the apartment is empty or everyone’s asleep, Orlan creeps out and wreaks gross, unhygienic havoc. He leaves huge turds floating in the toilet bowl and puts gay porn on Mel's laptop to name but a few mischievous acts that serve to divide Hussein and Mel until she walks out on him.
The passive aggression gets more pronounced and meaner. That gross out joke isn't funny anymore when you know the toothbrush has been down Orlan's pants or he stages anal bleeding as our unwitting mark sleeps. Freehold rides roughshod over a vocation it feels it is acceptable to mock and despise. Bridges exploits this perceived consensus, confident his audience isn’t going to feel any sympathy about the vileness that is secreted into Hussein's Eco-system.
The suspense of the unknown assailant is a device audience’s of 2011's Sleeptight and 2015's Hangman will be familiar. The bolder Orlan gets the more the voyeuristic experience of the audience loses its sickening pleasure as the situation comes to a head. Do you want Orlan to get caught or do you want to see how far he is prepared to go? At this point Hussein is jobless, friendless and behind with his mortgage payments. Is that enough punishment for simply being an estate agent? What was hilarious and perversely shocking about Orlan’s obtuse mission to break Hussein, now feels like bullying and cruel. Freehold’s finale isn’t conclusive which is a relief as it would be too simplistic to gleefully rely on hating Hussein for an entire film for simply being a good estate agent. Life is more complicated than that.