Review: Hache

Adriana Ugarte in Hache

Hache is a crime thriller from Spain starring Adriana Ugarte in another brilliant lead performance. This is Netflix 5th Spanish original.

The title, Hache, which Netflix didn’t bother to change or explain, is the Spanish word for the letter H. In this series, H is for Helena (Ugarte) and also for heroin.

Adriana Ugarte and Javier Rey in Hache
Helena (or Hache) and Malpica locked in a dangerous dance over money and power

The scene is Barcelona in 1960. A desperate Helena is making money selling sex when she wanders into a club called The Albatross. A man named Malpica (Javier Rey) runs the place. Helena catches Malpica’s eye. He knocks her around and rapes her to show his interest.

When Helena leaves we learn why she’s so desperate for money. Her daughter’s father is in prison. She wants to get him a lawyer. She has to pay the rent and provide for her daughter and a friend who stays with them. (Sorry, but IMDB doesn’t have the complete cast and these characters aren’t listed.) Despite the horrors of what happened to her at The Albatross, she sees how much money is available there. She goes back.

Adriana Ugarte and Javier Rey in Hache
He just can’t help falling for Helena

She worms her way in with Malpica. He falls in love with her. If you can call abuse, actual branding of the letter M on her shoulder, and jealous possessiveness love. She uses him and his money to better the situation for her daughter and hire a lawyer.

She learns he’s involved in heroin trafficking. He moves ‘product’ through the port of Barcelona from all around Europe and into the U.S. When she first hears the word heroin she doesn’t know what it is and asks Malpica, “Is it profitable?”

As Adriana Ugarte has done before, she’s again playing a strong, resilient survivor who overcomes many obstacles. I think that’s why I like her so much as an actress – her characters are tough, smart, and survivors.

Eduardo Noriega in Heche
A good cop can cause an awful lot of bad things to happen

As Helena gets more and more involved with Malpica there are many characters needed in the story. Some are cops, like the detective Alejandro Vinuesa (Eduardo Noriega). He was determined to stop the murders and catch the drug smugglers.

Some are American, particularly the US Consul’s wife Anna (Séainín Brennan), a heroin addict. She’s part of the reason exporting from the Barcalona port works so smoothly.

Some work for Malpica, like Arístides (Marc Martínez). Arístides is interesting because he’s gay and because he becomes an ally for Helena. One of Malpica’s former lovers, also branded with an M, is Celeste (Ingrid Rubio). She’s still around and definitely isn’t an ally for Helena. Julio (Pep Ambròs) is Malpica’s right hand man and also a lawyer.

With drug dealers, crime lords from all over the world, cops and informants and many people willing to share secrets for the right amount of money, there’s a lot of intrigue, murder, blackmail, and danger.

Helena tries to negotiate it all. She strives to learn as much as she can, get as much money out of it as she can, and keep her family safe.

Hache was created by Verónica Fernández. It was based on a true event. I saw the female gaze in her writing and in how well developed the various characters were. They had depth, strengths and weaknesses, backstories. This story about a woman trying to make a way though a gang of murderous drug dealers was definitely the female perspective.

There were two directors for the eight episodes: Jorge Torregrossa and Fernando Trullols. I definitely felt the male gaze in the directing. For example, there were lots of naked moments with Helena: Helena ordered to strip, Helena in the bath, Helena in the bed naked. More than we needed, really.

I must mention the music. There were two wonderful singers and a fantastic jazz band at The Albatross club. The female singer was Tonia Richardson and the man was Tony Zenet. The music was excellent and almost a part of the plot.

Another excellent aspect of the series was the atmospheric tone surrounding everything. The sets, the costumes, the smoky rooms – it all added authenticity to the story.

Poster for Hache

I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles. The series is mostly in Spanish with bits of English, Italian, and French thrown in.

Have you seen this suspenseful crime thriller? What did you think of it?

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