Published Feb 17, 2011It's hard to know at any moment if Alamar (the story of a young boy spending the summer with his Mayan father in the middle of the Banco Chinchorro coral reef before permanently relocating to Rome with his mother) is a documentary film or a scripted work of fiction. Numerous employed shots and angles would have required detailed preparation and practiced execution for the on-screen subjects to move as precisely into the frame in such a highly stylized manner. Granted, if it's scripted, there are surely only ten pages of actual lines, as Alamar, which literally translates to "To The Sea," is a quiet, thoughtful portrayal of a father and son testing each other's waters, inching toward a nature-dictated bond without landing on the wrong side of saccharine sentimentality.
It's the things that aren't said, and the subtle tension in that silence, that define this film and its relationships therein. Lazy moments of son Natan swinging in a hammock while singing a folk song, father Jorge discussing his coffee consumption over fish soup or the two befriending a tentative, cautious cattle egret nicknamed Blanquita, who becomes part of their family, layer the silence with doses of haunting, undulated, vulnerable abandon. Natan slowly loses his seasickness, as well as the awkward dynamic with Jorge, and the thriving, colourful, life-sustaining reef is contrasted with the congestion and brown, polluted waters of Rome, leaving little doubt that the father-son bond is directly related to their immersion in Mother Nature.
Jorge (a fisherman by trade) is a highly intelligent and charitable patriarch, passing on lessons that even Natan at his infantile age recognizes he'll remember for the rest of his life. This is a staggeringly beautiful effort from director Gonzalez-Rubio that despite its ambiguous genre will leave you aching to go all John Masefield with your parents on the open waves. (Mongrel Media)