THE COFFEE TABLE is the Most Anxiety Inducing 90 Minutes you will Endure in 2024!

Simply put, Caye Casas’ The Coffee Table is the most transgressive anxiety-inducing 90 minutes (!) you will endure in 2024, I guarantee it. While I caught the film at Fantastic Fest last year, it just hit DVD and VOD thanks to Cinephobia Releasing and I’ve been waiting with baited breath to spring it on unsuspecting viewers, after enduring it at the fest. The pitch black Spanish comedy is the story of Jesús (David Pareja) who while out furniture shopping with his wife Maria (Estefanía de los Santos) and newborn son happens upon an opulent and gaudy coffee table. In one of the most relatable scenes I’ve witnessed on film recently, we have a man that desperately wants this overpriced, ugly piece of furniture with 2 ornate golden nude women holding up a pane of glass, and his very sensible wife wanting nothing of it. That first scene does a remarkable job at grounding the film in reality, by making these characters so sympathetic and relatable. 

Maria eventually relents and once they get it home she steps out of their apartment to grab some groceries while Jesús assembles the monstrosity, tasked with also keeping an eye on his son; allowing her the first break she’s had since giving birth. The problem is while putting together the table Jesús accidentally decapitates his infant son on the glass. The most unexpected part is just how he reacts, which is  exactly how you expect a man who just accidentally cut his newborn son’s head off would, and I think that is where the film’s primary strength lies. There’s searing guilt, there’s anger, shame and then the shocking denial. When his wife comes home from shopping, Jesús, not wanting to confront the grim truth lies, simply says his son is sleeping. If that wasn’t enough, their next door neighbors tween daughter who is obsessed with Jesús, is threatening to lie to Maria, saying they had relations, to split the couple up, so she could have him for herself.

While The Coffee Table decimates you with pure grief and disbelief, which is played completely straight, director Caye Casas’ flawlessly plays against it with a pitch black humor. This manifests in how the director slowly ratchets up the pressure cooker around our poor protagonist in this heartbreaking situation. David Pareja makes Jesús’ grief and descent completely tangible on screen, making sure to never sever the audience’s connection. It’s a tightrope of a performance that is careful not to fall into the comedic trappings, and works better than any shocking gore or practical effect could. Opposite him, we have Estefanía de los Santos who is so sincere as his partner, that it just works to amplify the remorse that you’re feeling for David. The pair work together in a way, that levity aside, works to unnerve the viewer who is helpless to watch this all unfold. 

The Coffee Table may no doubt be too much for some, either due to the inciting incident or its tense aftermath. That said, one thing you can’t argue is how truly effective every minute of it is. I haven’t felt this anxious watching a film since Uncut Gems, and that’s another film that locks you in with its characters, only to turn the screws on its audience throughout the runtime. Caye Casas does this downright masterfully in how he not only keeps the tension growing throughout the film, but how he chooses to end the story, which leaves the viewer both flabbergasted and oddly at ease. So while I can’t recommend The Coffee Table to everyone, for those on the hunt for your next transgressive treat you need look no further than a film that still haunts me to this day, and because of that I can’t recommend it enough.

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