Movies: Alamar * * *
A curious blend of drama and documentary, Pedro González-Rubio's Alamar (To the Sea) is a kind of visual poem on the theme of man in nature that reminds you of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. At times it feels almost as contrived and sentimental, too, but rises above the mawkish for long periods and is very nice to look at.
The film is based, it seems, on a real family drama in which an Italian woman called Roberta and a Mexican fisherman called Jorge met, fell in love, had a child but have now separated. Jorge lives along Mexico's wild Caribbean coast, and Roberta can't stick it anymore and is about to decamp to Rome with their son, Natan.
Before he goes, Natan and Jorge set out on a bonding trip to the Banco Chinchorro, Mexico's largest coral reef and home to a set of hardy fishermen who literally live on the sea, in stilted wooden cottages. Jorge now resides in one of them, and he wants to show his son how he lives and teach him to fish for barracuda and snapper.
With the help of an older fisherman called Matraca, they skim across the cobalt waters hunting for catch, fishing by line or by diving down to the coral. And with the prospect of separation looming ever larger, father and son grow close, as Natan stores up precious memories of another life he might have had.
It's beautifully photographed, but at times you wonder exactly how much has been staged. And when a white cattle egret edges into the story, you suspect it has been persuaded to do so at the business end of a cattle prod.