Set in the Dominican Republic, in a rural seaside village, EL HOMBRE QUE CUIDA – translated into either The Caretaker or The Watchman – is about the quiet and introverted Juan, the caretaker of a rich man’s holiday villa. His wife fell pregnant to another man, and with the whole town knowing about, Juan has retreated into the confines of the villa over which he watches. However, his quiet life is disrupted when the son the owner, Rich, makes an unexpected appearance with his friend Cuba, a local girl, Maria in tow. Rich swears Juan to secrecy about their being there, which eventually leads to much more sinister events taking place, outside of Juan’s control.
EL HOMBRE QUE CUIDA is crafted with an underlying sense of dread, contrasting with the beautiful scenery. Although an engaging performance by actor Hector Anibal, Juan’s character is frustrating. The film is shown almost entirely from Juan’s point of view, and often it is difficult to observe his lack of action and his ongoing, almost tedious, fastidiousness in keeping the house in order. Juan is a ‘prisoner’, as he calls himself of the villa. He has become bound to a world that he can control, unlike the rest of his life outside the gates. The inclusion of Rich and his friends disrupts this, and unbalances Juan’s equilibrium.
There are no innocent characters in EL HOMBRE QUE CUIDA, each unable to break out of the world in which they find themselves…
There is something unsettling about EL HOMBRE QUE CUIDA as a whole, especially when it comes to the absolute freedom and irresponsibility of the young Rich – aptly named in English – who has no sense of restrictions or limitations. This explodes in a startling and unexpected scene part-way through the film. The lack of consequence laid upon him for any of his actions highlights that money is the ultimate power over others. This juxtaposes Maria’s background and role in the film. Clearly from a poor upbringing, she is essentially being used by the wealthy boys, who, at one point, can’t make up their minds if they should send her away (or, that is, ask Juan to get rid of her) as if she were theirs to command. A glimpse of her background partially triggers the unfortunate episode, when Juan suggests that she doesn’t know who her father is – her response is to get drunk. There are no innocent characters in EL HOMBRE QUE CUIDA, each unable to break out of the world in which they find themselves – although none shown so overtly as Juan in the villa.
[Juan] is intimately bound to the villa; he has trapped himself there.
The boundaries of the villa define this unequal world but which ultimately, as producer and writer Amelia del mar Hernandez suggested in her Q&A following the screening, is a reflection of life in the Dominican Republic, and it could be argued, in many other parts of the world. The idea of male domination, social status and that money is power are clearly issues raised in the picture. Juan, however, is the antithesis of these ideas. He is more intimately bound to the villa; he has trapped himself there. He is considered grounded, strong and sensible by those around him; yet he has the least power in the film, commands the least respect, and eventually is unable go against Rich or his father. His goodness is a weakness.
A highly watchable film, with an underlying darkness that gradually fills every corner of the story, EL HOMBRE QUE CUIDA is both a social comment and an intimate story of a man losing control of his life.