Movie Review: ‘Alamar’

Benjamin Louis, in his review of Pedro González-Rubio’s new film Alamar, finds that it achieves “weightlessness through the Depiction of the father–son bond.”

Pedro González-Rubio’s Alamar is a quietly beautiful, mesmerizing film that focuses on the developing relationship between a father and son as they bond over several days in Banco Chinchorro, a coral reef off the east coast of Mexico. Five-year-old Natan is the product of a whirlwind romance between Mexican fisherman Jorge and Roberta, an Italian woman who has decided to move back to Rome. Before mother and son leave for the city Jorge, wants to take Natan to his grandfather Matraca’s house in the jungle with the hope of teaching him about his Mayan heritage.
At first Natan has difficulty adjusting to his father’s life. He gets sick on the boat on the way to the island and seems terrified of both fish and the ocean. However he quickly adjusts to the slow life in his grandfather’s shack on stilts, scaling fish, sleeping in a hammock, snorkeling, and feeding crocodiles. There is an especially touching scene where the two feed and attempt to tame Blanquita, an African egret (heron) that wanders into their hut and continues to make several cameos throughout the rest of the film.
Although the camera sometimes lingers for what seems like a painfully long time on certain shots of Jorge and Natan until it actually feels like an intrusion, this actually serves to make the viewer feel that they are witnessing the most intimate and sacred parts of a father and son’s relationship. The opening shot of the two slowly spinning around a living room is amongst the most moving of the whole film. It’s moments like these that make the film work, allowing the viewer to observe in a mostly wordless dream the closeness between Jorge and Natan against an almost too-idyllic Caribbean backdrop of turquoise seas, cloudless skies, and washed-out vistas.
Purposefully short on plot, and ultimately more moving as a result, Alamar serves as a reminder that the details that often seem forgettable, end up staying with us the longest. Though it is far from perfect. Some viewers may find the naïve objectivity of the film infuriating and the conclusion is never in doubt from the beginning. Yes, Alamar is a wonderfully sure-handed piece of filmmaking that achieves a kind of weightlessness that few filmmakers working today could even dream of.
The review appeared at

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