Film scores

Soundtrack review: Exposed (Carlos Jose Alvarez – 2016)

It put me under a spell and it’s one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve heard this year.

“Exposed” (originally titled Daughter of God) is a 2016 American thriller film, written and directed by Declan Dale. The film stars Ana de Armas, Keanu Reeves, Christopher McDonald, Big Daddy Kane, and Mira Sorvino. A police detective investigates the truth behind his partner’s death. The mysterious case reveals disturbing police corruption and a dangerous secret involving an unlikely young woman. I must admit I was surprised to see Keanu go back to a regular police movie after his stranger and different script choices of the past few years. Carlos Jose Alvarez wrote the score and this will be my introduction to his music.

There have been quite a few movies in this genre lately and a lot of times the score sounded very similar. I was happy and hopeful when “Exposed” started very differently: a one minute long haunting prologue with an angelic female voice welcoming me to the world of this score. It is not a happy world and the strings make sure I feel it. No, this score is not like others in the dark thriller genre. Those are often electronic based and I can hear the piano and the cello here, each telling their own version of the story.

The feeling of loss is poignant in “Exposed”. The music reveals voids that can’t be filled and wounds that can’t be healed. The piano motifs fall like tears from inconsolable eyes. “Elisa” makes me think of “Esther” from Ennio Morricone’s “La Piovra”. The vocal part and the acceptance of the pain are familiar to me. What’s more important is that the composer makes me feel what the characters are going through. I am part of this story and I want the pain to pass, I need some closure.

I’ve always been drawn to cues featuring female vocalizing in the background. These moments add to the depth of the cue and help alleviate some of the pain. Those moments are like the happy memories coming to counter the pain of the loss. “Exposed” is full of moments like these and they will set the score apart. The music is simply beautiful and the composer knew exactly how to control it and make it meaningful.

The nostalgia element is present for me because that voice makes me think of Edda del’Orso, Ennio Morricone muse. I found out that it’s Janet Dacal who gave me these goose bumps and I can’t wait to hear more from her… I keep coming back to Morricone’s name because Carlos Jose Alvarez’s composition reminds me of the Maestro’s more soulful and sad works. I must admit I didn’t expect to be so affected by the music of “Exposed”. This lonely place the score took me to though was familiar and important to me. This is one of those albums that show me how much can be communicated and create through film music. Here I am, headphones in my ears, listening to what Carlos Jose Alvarez wrote and being transported in a different place, in a different time on the wings of a magnificently beautiful score.

If you enjoy the musings of the piano and if it speaks to you like it does to me, you’re in for a real treat with this one. It put me under a spell and it’s one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve heard this year.

Cue rating: 97 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 35 / 42

Album excellence: 83%

Highlights:

01 Dreaming Awake

02 Isabel’s Miracle

03 Lost Partner

04 Elisa

05 There’s This Girl

06 Visions

07 José Comes Home

08 Watching Over Elisa

09 Isabel’s Secret

10 Lonely Frustration

11 A Blessing

13 Sneaking In

16 Evidence

17 Her Truth Revealed

18 Exposed

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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