The joke is on me for thinking Tin & Tina would be another trashy, puke-worthy Netflix rom-com, thanks to its title. Sure, that particular genre has its audience, but in the case of Tin & Tina, I’m very happy to have been proven wrong after going through two anxiety-inducing, nightmarish hours—exactly the kind of thing I would expect from a good horror movie. Director Rubin Stein’s expansion of his 2013 short of the same name is a fascinating watch that keeps you on the edge of your seat for most of its runtime, with the anticipation of something waiting just around the corner. Funnily enough, the main premise of Tin & Tina, i.e., a childless couple adopting two orphan kids, can very well be the bedrock of a wholesome family drama, but making a psychological horror out of it has to be way more fun, I would say. Naturally, Tin & Tina calls for an exploration of the characters, which is what I am going to do in this article. You must be here having seen the movie, but just in case you haven’t watched it yet, this is where you stop reading this thing and rush to Netflix.
Tin and Tina are introduced in an angelic manner when Lola and Adolfo hear them playing the organ in the Convent. With Lola forming an instant connection with the twins, they find their new home rather unexpectedly. However, these are not regular kids. While Lola and Adolfo’s household is pretty much free of religious activities, the twins intend to say grace before every meal and utter Biblical psalms instead of counting numbers before playing hide and seek, which they call the “battle of angels”. While this overbearing religious influence bothers Lola after a while, her husband conveniently chooses to ignore it by blaming it on their convent upbringing. That is something that should be taken into account, though, especially considering the Reverend Mother in the Convent appears to be a deranged fanatic who could easily plant the seed of religious dogmatism inside the heads of the twins. But even then, some of the activities of the twins do bring up the obvious question: are these two truly evil, with some kind of otherworldly abilities?
The movie is designed in such a way that instead of offering you a straight answer to the question, it puts you in the jury’s seat, allowing you to ruminate over the thought. While I was appalled to see what the twins did to the dog, it was also true that not only did they seem genuinely remorseful about killing the poor animal in the name of “cleansing,” they even followed the path of self-harming in order to repent for the sin. The next questionable act would be what the twins did (supposedly) to Pedro, the school bully. Unlike the dog, this time, we don’t really get to see them doing anything to Pedro, but there are clear indications and, most essentially, a drawing that is eventually torn apart by Adolfo. As the story progresses towards its chaotic climax, Tin and Tina’s “strange” activities keep getting a notch crazier. It reaches a boiling point when the twins literally drown Lola’s newborn baby, which effectively leads to Adolfo dropping them off at the Convent. The twins don’t make an appearance during the final act of the movie, but their impact is clearly felt, and we keep wondering if it is they who are responsible for Adolfo’s horrifying fate.
Isn’t it strange that in a movie where two other characters mutilate a dog, almost kill a newborn, and suffocate a woman, among many other unspeakable things, the worst character turns out to be “The Husband”?
Not quite, actually, considering Adolfo is a very typical entitled male character, which I am sure the director intended to use as a narrative tool, and it really works out. While he initially comes off as a husband supportive enough to make things right for his grieving wife after she had a miscarriage, with each passing moment, his ignorant nature becomes quite evident. The worst thing he probably does is constantly ignore his wife’s legitimate concerns regarding Tin and Tina. Even when the twins literally tie a pregnant Lola to her bed, Adolfo writes that off as their way of showing love. It comes down to his own son almost dying (also because of his negligence) at the hands of the twins for him to take action. But what he does is also very problematic—abandoning the children he once took home to be part of his family. He tries to escape from his fatherly duties by putting the entire responsibility on Lola. Naturally, when Lola conveys her desire to work as a seamstress, Adolfo stands against the idea because he can’t take care of the baby, which is a very typical “men thing.” The character of Adolfo embodies everything that is wrong with a large section of men, and sadly, it is true even in the context of the time we are living in. Adolfo’s only redeemable quality is probably fixing the television, and it is kind of ironic that he ends up meeting his maker in the worst possible way while doing that very thing. While getting struck by lightning and being literally fried to death is probably not something the character deserved, his death doesn’t really bring any additional sadness, either. In fact, it actually frees Lola from the obligation of staying in the marriage with him, if you think about it.
Even though the movie is called Tin & Tina, it is predominantly the story of Lola. Easily the best character among all, Lola is a kind and patient person who keeps doing the right thing to maintain the balance of her household, when three of her closest people happen to be two psychotic kids and an escapist husband. While Adolfo is initially against the idea of bringing Tin and Tina home as it goes against the couple’s original plan of adopting a toddler, it is Lola who points out the fact that these kids need to be loved, which they would probably never find given that people usually don’t adopt older kids. Lola herself growing up in a convent is something that should be taken into consideration here, as she is someone who understands the necessity of a loving family because she didn’t have one of her own when she was a child.
Despite all the troublesome things Tin and Tina do after coming to the house, Lola doesn’t lose her patience with the children. Even when the kids literally suffocate her in the name of showing her God, she doesn’t get mad at them. But Lola also addresses the fact that there is something wrong with Tin and Tina, unlike Adolfo, who chooses to turn a blind eye because that is convenient for him. She keeps trying to look into the matter and visits the Reverend Mother at the Convent to find out about the twins’ past. Everything she does is out of genuine concern for the twins and to get them out of the religious bubble. Only when it becomes literally impossible to deal with the twins with love and compassion, Lola’s patience takes a hit, and she imposes strictness upon the twins by locking religion inside a box. When she gets pregnant again, her motherly instincts kick in further, and she starts distancing herself from Tin and Tina. It is not that she wants to punish the adopted children, but ignoring what they have been doing becomes a struggle for her. Not to mention, Adolfo makes the situation worse for her by siding with the twins instead of listening to her.
In a way, Tin and Tina act as catalysts for Lola to take a closer look at the problems in her marriage with Adolfo. After dropping off the children at the Convent, Lola keeps questioning the decision, while all Adolfo wants is to sweep everything under the rug and move forward. It becomes clear to Lola that this is not the kind of marriage she wants to be in. When she pretty much breaks the news to Adolfo by taking the ring off, Adolfo naturally freaks out and goes off to do his heroic act of “fixing the TV.” Hypothetically speaking, if Adolfo was alive, Lola would have probably stayed in the marriage because, despite everything, she still loved her husband. But Adolfo’s death pretty much works as her way out without dealing with the shaming by the society, especially given the Spain of 1981 was anything but an epitome of progressiveness.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Tin & Tina is Lola’s relationship with religion. Even after growing up in a convent, Lola turns out to be what you call “diametrically opposite” to Tina and Tina. Losing her parents and half of her leg in a fateful fire pretty much takes her away from God. If that is not enough, imagine the tragedy of losing your unborn children on the day of your wedding! It wouldn’t have made sense if Lola was a devotee, even after all this. Her getting pregnant again, even after the gynecologist clearly ruled out the chance of it, hints at a miracle, but that might just be a medical anomaly and not a divine intervention of God, answering the twins’ prayer. Lola also doesn’t seem to take it as a “blessing of the Lord” either. Only when she is unable to find her baby inside the burning house, she take a chance on the almighty, seeing no other options, and voila, she finds the baby. That might just be a coincidence as well; at least the atheist in me thinks in that direction. Lola does get reunited with the twins in the end and says “Amen” with a smile on her face, which does hint at her coming to some sort of terms with the idea of God or whatever is up there in her own way.
Tin & Tina raises the fundamental question of “science versus faith” in its psychological horror drama setting. But interestingly, instead of taking a side, it takes the debate to the audience. It is really up to you and me to believe whatever we want to believe. There are plausible explanations supporting both sides, thanks to its great writing, solid technical craft, and Stein’s very smart direction. Were Tin and Tina really evil? We will never know, but that is the very reason this movie is going to stay with us for a long time.