A man, his son and the sea: The tender ‘Alamar’

This tender love story about a man saying farewell to his son, like reality TV, mixes fiction with reality ,and does so in a place that seems like paradise: Banco Chinchorro, a coral reef in Mexico.

The man is Jorge Machado, who plays Jorge. He met Roberta Palombini, an Italian woman, named Roberta. They met, fell in love and had Natan (Natan Machado Palombini). But Roberta prefers a city life (Rome) whereas the wild-maned Jorge lives in the jungle, in the middle of nowhere and yet that nowhere is just where we all long to be in our dreams.

As Roberta prepares to take Natan back to Italy with her, Jorge takes his son for a last summer together on the open sea, living in a hut on stilts above the ocean with the grandfatherly Nestor, eating fresh seafood and befriending an egret.

This is the second film for writer/director Pedro González-Rubio and it shows great promise. His first film was a documentary, “Toro negro” which he co-directed. Meaning “Black Bull,” the movie was about a young man called “El Negro” who wants to be a bullfighter, but the Village Voice’s Michael Atkinson wrote “it becomes clear that Pacheco is some kind of sociopath, and the movie evolves into a monstrous portrait of economic annihilation on the outskirts of the global village.”

“Alamar,” which means “To the Sea,” is by contrast, a peaceful, thoughtful piece that settles into the soothing rhythms of the life at sea: catching fish by snorkeling, fishing with a line held by hand and spearing lobster. Natan learns to snorkel and help with the preparation of the fish.

Not all of this movie is scripted. The wild “pet” egret which Natan and Jorge name “Blanquita” is a bit of happenstance and the moments when Jorge teaches Natan how to approach the bird are touching. When Blanquita eventually disappears, you know it was inevitable and yet feel the slight tug of regret in Natan’s voice. Haven’t we all experienced that?

There is no melodramatic moments of anger between Roberta and Jorge, no traumatic parting shots of Natan tearfully looking back at his father. Their parting is only  a poignant breeze that touches our every thought as we watch them work and play and, with the parting of Blanquita, becomes part of the natural rhythms we have witnessed in the two months it took to film this movie.

These are intimate moments, memories that will remain forever with Natan I think, and this movie, half-documentary and half-fatherly fantasy, will remain one of the most tender father-son stories.  Maybe in the future, we’ll hear from the grown up Natan and learn what he remembers from this time.  If González-Rubio doesn’t make such a movie, I hope someone just as sensitive will. Whatever González-Rubio decides to do next, it should be well-worth watching.

In Italian and Spanish with English subtitles.

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