The Motive (El Autor)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Motive (El Autor) Movie Poster Image
Spanish dark comedy has nudity, sex, language.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 112 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Alvaro's story is a negative example that shows, in an exaggerated way, what can happen if you don't stay grounded in the here and now, appreciating who and what you have in front of you in the moment. Also a negative example of what happens when you try to manipulate people for your own benefit.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alvaro is a sad sack who uses and manipulates people to further his goals when it becomes clear that his own talent isn't enough. Other characters aren't much better, mostly motivated by varying levels and types of self-interest.


A prison riot played for comedy shows some World Wrestling Entertainment-type choke holds and throwing furniture. A woman hints once or twice at past domestic abuse without giving specifics.


Simulated sex in a car shows fully clothed heads and shoulders, moaning, grunting, a simulated orgasm. A couple is overheard having sex with moaning, "talking dirty." Brief kissing, caressing around the shoulders in bed. A man and woman both fully nude from the front in bed, implying they've just had sex. Nonsexual and played for comedy, a man is shown fully nude from the front, back, and side, placing his genitals on his desk, and later sitting fully nude from behind. A crude drawing shows two men having anal sex. Mention of sticking a finger "up the ass," and "hand job."


Translated from Spanish: "f--k," "whore," "f--got," "son of a bitch," "damn," "hell," "balls," "ass," and "bastard." Not all the strong language in Spanish is translated, like "coño," "puñetera," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults occasionally have wine with meals and once have cognac. A man drinks from a bottle in silhouette. A man is accused of being drunk; his speech is slurred and he's unsteady. Mention of a past drinking problem.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Motive is a dark comedy in Spanish with English subtitles. Strong sexual content includes simulated sex shown fully clothed from the shoulders up in a car; a man fully nude from the front, side, and back; and a naked woman from the front and on a bed after sex. A crude drawing shows two men having anal sex. Mention of sticking a finger "up the ass," and "hand job." Strong language translated from Spanish includes "f--k," "ass," and "f--got." Some strong language isn't translated, like "coño" and "puñetera." Adults drink occasionally with meals, but one character shows drunken behavior, and a past drinking problem is mentioned. The characters and plot are comedic, exaggerated negative examples of what happens when you lose sight of the here and now, ignoring what you have right in front of you, and when you try to manipulate people for your own gain.

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What's the story?

THE MOTIVE tells of Alvaro, an office worker in Seville, Spain, who's fed up with his boring job and dreams of being a serious writer. He reaches the breaking point when his wife receives a prestigious literary prize for a book Alvaro thinks is drivel, and his wound gets a heavy dose of salt in it when he accidentally discovers his wife with another man. Told to take some time off work to get his head together, Alvaro rents an apartment on his own and devotes himself to writing "real" literature. Writer's block and lack of talent get in the way until Alvaro starts paying attention to his new neighbors: the immigrant couple from Mexico, the old soldier, the building caretakers. He gets positive feedback when he writes out his neighbors' conversations and lives. But what can he do when his characters don't cooperate with where Alvaro wants the story to go?

Is it any good?

Strong performances by a talented cast bring a spark to this darkly comic character study of a talentless hack, and the tight script quickly draws the viewer into the well-structured story. The Motive manages to maintain interest and suspense as we watch Alvaro make worse decisions at every turn. Director Manuel Martín Cuenca wisely stays mostly out of the way, letting the script and the talent do their jobs.

Gently paced and quiet in tone, one or two moments do start to drag, but the story soon picks back up and draws you back in. The adult themes explored, comical negative models and messages, and brief but graphic sexual content make it best for older teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sexual content in The Motive. Why have nudity at all? Is it a big deal? What's OK to show in movies and on TV?

  • We only see other characters through Alvaro's eyes. Is he right about any of them? Is he wrong about all of them? What other movies or TV shows have you seen with "unreliable narrators"?

  • What are some of your favorite movies in Spanish, or any other language besides English? What do you like about them? How are they different from Hollywood movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love foreign films

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