The Chalk Line (2022) Follows Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare
Title: The Chalk Line
First Non-Festival Release: September 9, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Ignacio Tatay
Writer: Isabel Peña, Ignacio Tatay
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Starring: Elena Anaya, Pablo Molinero, Eva Tennear
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Paula (Elena Anaya) and Simón (Pablo Molinero) are driving down a deserted road late at night when they come across something peculiar in the road: a young girl. After a motorcycle accident, the couple rush to the hospital with Clara (Eva Tennear) who remains mute after the incident. Weeks pass with no one coming to claim her and the doctors ask the couple if they are interested in taking her in, since Clara responds so well to Paula, and they accept. Still refusing to speak, Clara insists on staying within the confines of chalk lines lest she get punished. Despite the unusual circumstances, things seem to be going well until the Boogeyman who has been haunting Clara decides to intervene.
A twisty psychological film rooted in the horrors of abuse, The Chalk Line intrigues with its true crime like premise.
The Chalk Line capitalizes on its interesting setup in its first two acts leaving audiences guessing at what is truly at the heart of Clara’s condition. From the beginning, it is presented that Clara hasn’t quite escaped the terror she left behind on the road. Paula makes it her mission to unearth the answers behind Clara’s mental state so she can help her. Eventually, when Clara goes missing once again, she must do even more legwork to understand her. Following a traditional psychological horror movie route, this leads to Paula investigating past circumstances surrounding similar cases. Most of the film follows a familiar path in uncovering the rest of its story which gets less intriguing as it develops despite it ending with a few decidedly downbeat stingers.
Throughout the film, the topic of child abuse is both directly and indirectly addressed through the story. From the beginning, it is very clear that Clara is a child that has gone through incredible stress and trauma. She cannot speak, she has adverse reactions to seemingly innocuous things, and she grows attached to very strict and unusual rituals. Eventually, we learn the true nature behind her trauma and the context adds to why she behaves the way she does. Living through such pain and loss forces a child to take drastic precautions to protect themselves from the negative stimuli in their life. With Clara’s history, it makes sense why she wants to do everything she can to stop the Boogeyman from hurting her more.
Quite possibly the most disappointing aspect of The Chalk Line comes from its reveal. A recent trend in horror involves setting up an odd scenario, emphasizing its supernatural aspects, and then bait-and-switching the audience to show that the entire story is rooted in reality. While The Chalk Line is plausible in its horror, the convoluted setup ruins the overall tone of the film. Even worse, the film feels the need to show every single moment to support the twist rather than letting the viewer piece together the backstory and move forward. It kills the pacing and makes what is otherwise an interesting film feel generic.
The central cast does a solid job portraying their characters and their respective arcs. Elena Anaya is the standout, of course, as she commands the screen for the majority of the film. She has the difficult job of portraying Paula as a reliable narrator through the story where everyone is convinced that she is making up details surrounding Clara’s disappearance. Anaya does this respectably giving credence to both narratives without betraying her character. The rest of the cast does fine but ultimately fade to the background compared to her.
This Spanish psychological horror thriller will tug at your heartstrings while elevating your heart rate. Borrowing heavily from similarly themed films, The Chalk Line cements itself as a competent and taut examination on the effects of child abuse. Despite its story's outlandish setup, it remains rooted in reality of the real-life horrors faced by children all over the world. It may lose some of the good will it builds up after revealing all of its cards, but it still remains a great exercise in psychological torment for parents all the same. Follow The Chalk Linedirectly to this film’s place on Netflix and drop it in your streaming queue as soon as you can.
Overall Score? 6.5/10