‘Alcarras’ review: Spain’s Oscar entry sheds light on the farming family

In the opening moments of Spanish filmmaker Carla Simón’s ‘Alcarràs’ – Spain’s submission to the Oscars for an international feature film – the smallest members of the Sole peach-growing family watch as one of their favorite toys, an abandoned car on the edge of their orchard, is lifted by a giant crane removed that seems to come out of nowhere.

Proud followers of a fading agricultural tradition of tight-knit clans who work land as a way of life, the Soles must come to terms with the fact that they are the next target of a brutal eviction. Inspired by the writer-director’s own background – Simón comes from a family of Catalan peach pickers – Alcarràs follows her similarly autobiographical debut film Summer 1993 by depicting another naturalistic, emotionally astute and utterly bittersweet season of heat and anxiety in this one Fall may be the last time the Soles do what they’ve been doing for generations.

They face eviction because grandfather Rogelio (Josep Abad) – meek custodian of the old ways and the histories that connect them to the landowners – never received a signed treaty from their wealthy benefactors, whose ancestors were once protected by the Soles when Fascists hunted the nobility. But the handshake promise of a simpler era means little when today’s enterprising owners plan to chop down the fruit trees and install solar panels.

The stress shows in the pinched face, bad back and bad mood of Rogelio’s driving son, Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet). Ignoring what’s imminent as he oversees an accelerated harvest, he expresses little concern about how his volatility is affecting the cohesion of his extended multi-generational family, many of whom live under the same roof but their situation not in the same way see . While the younger cousins ​​frolic in a large rural playground, Quimet’s underrated wife Dolors (Anna Otín) puts on a brave face and runs the household. And while his sister and brother-in-law find an adjustment necessary, the eldest children — pop music-loving teenage Mariona (Xènia Roset) and college old Roger (Albert Bosch), who secretly grow marijuana on the property — live in a watchful, troubled world State of wanting to honor the life they have always known but understanding the need for independence.

It’s invigorating how Alcarràs feels in its documentary detail and in the golden, leafy warmth of Daniela Cajías’ cinematography, even as the film shows all the hallmarks of a carefully mapped tale of hearts and minds colliding and racing in different directions , but always try to find common ground. One meeting point is realizing who the real enemies are: industrial giants who are flattening prices and turning people away from farming. Perhaps, Simón finally suggests, the family protesting together will stay together.

Simón’s brilliant handling of amateur actors, particularly her younger cast, quickly becomes a cornerstone of her attentive, sensitive storytelling style. And for a group of novices unrelated off-camera — selecting already-connected family members is a common approach for neorealists looking for helpful shorthand — this cast immediately exudes a woven, worn-down authenticity of effort and togetherness. It ranges from the unbridled childlike energy and innocence of field marshal Iris (Ainet Jounou) to Abad’s melancholic patriarch Rogelio, who seeks private moments with the natural beauty that gave meaning to his life and may soon be over.

Even Quimet, played by Dolcet with Bob Hoskins-like stubbornness, is hardly a one-note character in his implacability and anger – in moments of drunken exuberance and vulnerability we see how much he is the heart of the family like anyone else. He’s simply facing an end, a change, a modern reality that can’t be stopped or slowed down by faster picking, fits, begging or grandfather’s gifts of freshly-raised produce or freshly-killed rabbits lying on a titleholder’s doorstep, as if what happens amounts to a neighborhood dispute.

Films about the people who grow our food, who fight as honest land stewards in an age of heartless industry, are few and far between, making Alcarràs a rare gem. In its easy, plaintive artistry, it nurtures the beauty and burden of these all-too-hidden lives to a palpable maturity.

‘Alcarras’

In Spanish with English subtitles

Not rated

Duration: 2 hours

To play: Begins January 6, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; Lammle Glendale; Available February 24th on Mubi

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2023-01-05/alcarras-review-spain-carla-simon ‘Alcarras’ review: Spain’s Oscar entry sheds light on the farming family

Sarah Ridley

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