“That’s why I’m here. To be reprogrammed.”
Toc Toc (2017), the Spanish comedy film written and directed by Vicente Villanueva, is based on Laurent Baffie’s 2005 French play of the same name. The title is a play on words, as “toc” is both the onomatopoeia for “knock” in Spanish, and the abbreviation for OCD (Trastorno Obsesivo-Compulsivo). Not all adaptations are destined for greatness, but in this case one language seems to translate perfectly into the other, promising an onslaught of laughter-induced cramps.
Emilio (Paco León), Blanca (Alexandra Jiménez), Ana María (Rossy de Palma), Federico (Oscar Martínez), Otto (Adrián Lastra) and Lili (Nuria Herrero) are six people plagued by their own unique cases of OCD. After spending a year on the waiting list to see the acclaimed doctor that can cure them of their life-crippling mental health conditions, they all end up in the waiting hall with the same appointment time – and with the doctor nowhere in sight. Irritation gives way to humour and a sense of camaraderie as the group embarks on a quest to battle their demons together.
The film is almost as fast-paced and sharply-edited as Robert Rodriguez’s scenes in Four Rooms (1995), masterfully extracting the essence of absurdity from something as humourless as OCD. The portrayal of Tourette syndrome, in particular, serves as a trembling foundation for ground-breaking comedy. It is precisely this lack of political correctness in the film that allows the audience to succumb to a thrilling exploration of freedom, both in terms of escaping the confines of the mind, and ghosting around sought-after directness.
Anyone suffering from OCD will both weep from the unscratchable itch of the plot, and roar with laughter at the helpless ludicrousness of it all. As Emilio states as some point, “it’s a circus in here”. Below the wispy airiness of the disfigured topic, there is a thick and impenetrable fabric of human complexity and compassion. Everyone is isolated, both literally and metaphorically, but by utilising the cutting wit of the dialogue, the protagonists assemble the rafts needed to conquer stormy waters.
This would be unachievable, if not for the fantastic ensemble that comes together like an elaborate puzzle. The fiery personalities set irritable quirks, along with their comedic value, ablaze as we witness a compelling manipulation of genres. The ending manages to feel like the gut-twisting culmination point of a detective mystery, and the plot twist that follows finally erases all tingling from our senses.