Judge Ben Saylor loves fishing—for compliments.
"Those who live at sea live happily."
It's funny (and also sad) to think about how many millions of dollars' worth of starpower and special effects are thrown onto the big screen every year in the service of bad films, especially when you compare these movies to an accomplished low-key and low-budget work like Alamar.
Alamar (which means "To the Sea") opens with a brief overview of Jorge (Jorge Machado) and Roberta (Roberta Palombini), who get married and have a son, Natan (Natan Machado Palombini). Ultimately, the disparate lifestyles of each leads to divorce, and the young Natan spends some time with Jorge in Mexico before going to live with his mother in Italy. During this time, Jorge and Natan stay in a ramshackle hut on stilts, surrounded by water. He and Natan, along with Jorge's father Matraca (Nestór Marin), spend their days fishing. We see them clean their catch and eat it. At one point, Jorge and Natan briefly adopt an egret. Jorge and Natan have a playful wrestling match.
That's about all there is of "plot" in Alamar, so if you're looking for an intricate story, you're out of luck. There's no urgency to the narrative, but even if the film feels somewhat longer than its 73-minute runtime, it's a very enjoyable viewing experience. Filmmaker Pedro González-Rubio's naturalistic, documentary-like approach does a great job of bringing the viewer into the film's beautiful Banco Chinchorro setting. (He wrote, directed, photographed and edited the film.) His intimate but unobtrusive visuals are perfectly complemented by his uncluttered script to create a film that drifts amiably and authentically along.
Beyond putting some truly beautiful locales on display, Alamar is a father-son story (in this case, a real one, as the actors playing Jorge and Natan are actually father and son). There is sparse dialogue between the two, but their bond is apparent in moments like a scene where Jorge tries to get the egret to climb onto Natan's arm, and when Jorge teaches Natan how to snorkel. Refreshingly, these moments are devoid of sappiness and feel as organic and real as the scenes showing Jorge and Matraca fishing.
Film Movement's DVD of Alamar boasts a clear and bright transfer and a great sound mix; the latter does a terrific job conveying the sounds of the ocean. The most significant bonus features are two additional scenes, as well as a short film, No Corras Tanto (Take It Easy), that shows off some pretty impression animation with sand. The film's trailer and a text-only bio of González-Rubio are also included. A brief statement from González-Rubio can also be found on the inside of the DVD's sleeve.
The simple and gentle Alamar is a well-made and absorbing father-and-son film that showcases some gorgeous scenery. Film Movement's DVD is well worth checking out.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Film Movement
• Director's Statement
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