Alamar (U)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/09/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 73 mins

Beautifully shot, relentlessly minimalist and deceptively simple drama that's by turns fascinating and quietly moving.

What's it all about?
Written, directed, shot and edited by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio, Alamar is a semi-fictional drama with a real relationship at its heart. Set in the idyllic coral reef of Banco Chinchorro in Mexico, the film stars Natan Machado Palombini as young Natan, who's spending one last summer with his native father Jorge (Jorge Machado) before leaving for Rome to live with his Italian mother, Roberta (Roberta Palombini).

That's literally all there is to the plot – Jorge and Natan's grandfather Matraca (Nestor Marin) patiently teach Natan everything there is to know about fishing, while serving up valuable life lessons such as “Watch out for crocodiles”. Meanwhile, Natan and Jorge are briefly adopted by a beautiful white egret, which Natan names Blanquita, only for Blanquita to promptly disappear.

The Good
The film is beautifully shot. Every frame is gorgeous to look at and Gonzalez-Rubio perfectly captures the slow-but-sure rhythm of life on the coral – tellingly, one of the film's very few lines is “You need patience to be a fisherman”. Similarly, the relationship between the three male characters is extremely moving, especially as you spend the entire film knowing Jorge and Natan will have to be parted at the end.

The blurring of fiction and documentary-style realism works extremely well, with the camera catching certain moments that seem too good to be true, such as the appearance of Blanquita (listed in the credits as being played by Garza Silvestre, which suggests a touch of egret-wrangling). Regardless of whether it's fact or fiction, the Blanquita sub-plot is a definite highlight of the film and also serves a subtle purpose, as Natan's impending and heartbreaking separation from his father is prefigured by the equally heartbreaking disappearance of the bird.

The Bad
Sight & Sound described Alamar as “a prime example of slow cinema with a vengeance” and that's certainly true, so if slow-moving films with minimal dialogue aren't your thing, then you'd be advised to steer well clear, particularly if you have zero interest in fishing.

Worth seeing?
Alamar is a beautifully shot drama that's surprisingly moving, though the slow pacing may prove off-putting to the arthouse-averse. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 23/02/2019 22:04

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