A beautifully shot and acted ode to the bond of a father and son.
Alamar, which translates “To The Sea”, is a rare thing of wonder, in
the current climate of cinema. It has little-to-no plot to speak of, but
it is one of the most captivating films you are likely to see this
year. Its relaxing tone is accomplished through the simplicity of the
way it is shot. There is nothing extravagant, no quick wit, no fancy
photography and yet it packs more emotional pull than any host of mainstream dramas.
Jorge (Machado) and Roberta (Palombini) are from very
different worlds. He lives an uncomplicated life in the jungle, she
prefers the bustle of city life. So when Roberta decides to move back to
Rome she lets their five-year old son Natan (Machado Palombini) take a trip with his father. The journey sees them visit Jorge’s father, Matraca (Marin), a fisherman in Mexico. While there, Jorge and Natan witness the beauty of the area and find comfort in each other’s company.
Writer-director Gonzalez-Rubio set out to make a film that would
realise the essence of the Banco Chinchorro Natural Reserve in Mexico.
Shooting the footage himself, he captures an awe-inspiring landscape
wherein man and nature form a perfect balance with each other. From
stunning shots of the sky meeting the multi-tone sea, to birds perfectly
silhouetted against a crimson horizon, Alamar is a visual experience that is breathtaking to behold.
However, the true hook of Alamar is the way it addresses the
relationship between Jorge and Natan. Rubio shoots everything in a
documentary style, indeed his background in filmmaking, to this point,
has been in the aforementioned field, and in many ways could easily be a
doc. A glance at the cast names make it clear that Jorge and Natan are,
in fact, father and son. To this extent it is sometimes a mystery as to whether what we are watching is scripted or actual events captured on camera.
Irrelevant of this, though, it excels in highlighting the way in which
Natan reveres his father and how Jorge is continually seduced by his
son’s innocent eyes.
Rubio finds symmetry in the natural world and Jorge and Natan’s. A
scene in which Jorge cuts up fish to allow his son to feed the gulls,
that gather above their house, is wonderfully echoed in the following
scene of Natan being fed by Jorge. Or, as Natan is mesmerised by a tame
bird that willing eats bugs from the young boys hands, as Jorge is
equally engaged by his son’s endless fascination with it. There are no Hollywood grand gestures
here, no rousing speeches to tell you what to feel. Instead you are
presented with a relationship so real that at times you feel intrusive
revelling in its touching moments.
The performances are almost impossible to judge, due to the natural
paths they take, but suffice to say both Jorge and Natan are endlessly
engaging. Much of the film is shot from Natan’s perspective and it is
credit to the child actor that he is able to hold the audience so perfectly in his hands.
A simple tear on his face as he realises that he will be parted from
his father is enough to create more emotion than is normally expected in
one so young.
For some Alamar will be too slow. Much of it follows a lethargic pace and as such will feel drawn out. But to others it is a film that washes over you in a truly refreshing combination of beauty and pathos. As a feature film debut, if Rubio can muster even a percentage of what he accomplishes here he will become a remarkable