(director/writer: Lisandro Alonso; screenwriter: Salvador Roselli; cinematographer: Lucio Bonelli; editors: Sergi Dies/Fernando Epstein/Martín Mainoli/Lisandro Alonso; music: Flormaleva; cast: Nieves Cabrera (Trujillo), Giselle Irrazabal (Analia), Juan Fernández (Farrel); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Luis Miñarro/Lisandro Alonso/Marianne Slot/Ilse Hughan; Kino; 2008-Argentina-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“If interested in such a glum but worthy New Realism subject as uniquely depicted here, where you are asked to make of it what you will, you should find that this one chops the wood.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Acclaimed Argentine director Lisandro Alonso (“La Libertad”/”Los Muertos”/”Fantasma”) helms an arty low-budget film, shot in two weeks without professional actors and with minimal dialogue, that’s co-written with Salvador Roselli. It’s about a sullen 40ish career merchant sailor, Farrel (Juan Fernández), a wanderer returning to his isolated home after a long absence and unable to understand how alienated and joyless he has become without family and friends after leaving a lot of emotional baggage behind him.
Farrel’s cargo freighter stops at the seaside city of Ushuaia, in the remote southernmost town in Argentina, and the veteran sailor gets permission from his captain to visit his ailing elderly mother in his hometown of Tierra del Fuego, a barren logging town whose landscape is snow-covered for the winter. Farrel, after spending a night chowing down on a restaurant dinner, drinking vodka from the bottle and going to a strip club, gets a ride the next morning to his birthplace home from a trucker hauling logs to the sawmill and embarks on a tiny impoverished struggling community in the middle of nowhere. Farrel finds once there his sick mother doesn’t remember him and that the only person who recognizes him is his hostile father, Trujillo (Nieves Cabrera), at least I think it’s his father, who takes care of Farrel’s bed-ridden mother and cares for Farrel’s abandoned mentally retarded teenage daughter Analia (Giselle Irrazabal). The emotionally damaged gentle girl never knew her dad and when her mom died was raised by the caring Trujillo.
The film prefers to remain inexplicable and a downer, providing hardly any back story but relying on its powerful visuals by cinematographer Lucio Bonelli to relay to the viewer what it’s like living in such a barren community with no modern conveniences or living so isolated and claustrophobic a life on a large ship with high-tech instruments. Alonso has Farrel ending his fruitless pilgrimage by returning to his freighter and saying no goodbyes but leaving Analia a worthless keychain souvenir trinket spelling Liverpool (perhaps a symbol of failed globalization!) and a little money.
It’s a brooding, melancholy dramatization of loneliness and despair, whereby the characters leading quiet lives of desperation can’t seem to find any joy in life but to survive must work or depend on living off the land.
If interested in such a glum but worthy New Realism subject as uniquely depicted here, where you are asked to make of it what you will, you should find that this one chops the wood.
REVIEWED ON 12/18/2012 GRADE: A-