Saturday, 7 May 2016

Alamar (To The Sea)

Pedro González-Rubio, 2009, Mexico

Films are often criticised for not having enough plot: for example would be ‘The Revenant’ and ‘The Raid’, as if cinema is only at the mercy of drama. But these films are about other things upon which a familiar premise is but a coat-hanger (execution and acting in the former; fighting in the latter); you could even say it about ‘Victoria’ (execution and acting). Sometimes a film might feel improved if it had more plot, or rather more originality in the writing – say, ‘Hardcore Henry’. But sometimes the visuals can be enough.

Pedro González-Rubio’s ‘Alamar’ barely has a narrative at all: the child of a holiday romance, Natan (Natan Machado Palombini), goes to spend some time with his father Roberta (Roberta Palombini) who lives off the Mexican coast on the Caribbean reef of Banco Chinchorro. The film is composed of the men’s daily routine in fishing: there are no women, although they do call a bird that seems to temporarily adopt them by the feminine. Once the mother sets up the background story, she merely bookends this portrayal of father-son bonding. This separation may raise the probability of some kind of disharmony, but there is very little friction here, perhaps even less than dialogue. What we do have are gorgeous visuals of the reef, of a sea-based community. Highlights are the feeding of birds and crocodiles. 

The film has a documentary style in its matter-of-factness, but the visuals are gorgeous because what it is looking at is abundant natural beauty. It’s a home-movie of a gorgeous holiday or perhaps a ‘National Geographic’ article come to life. It captures a mood, a fleeting happiness and beauty. It leaves many questions unanswered but this is not a film of answers. Rather, it implies the continuous nature of emotional response in that it does not bestow Natan immediately with reflective sadness for a lost paradise when he returns home to his mother in Rome –after all, he is only five – but perhaps the value of this time with his father will reveal such reflections as he grows up. It is perhaps nice, for once, just to wallow in a mood of a moment without the demands and tensions of drama.

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