Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Las Acacias

Contemplative slice-of-life Argentine film about a trucker transporting a young mother 800 miles won the Camera d'Or prize for best first film at Cannes.

Sept 10, 2012

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1362778-Las_Acacias_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

For a film whose main location is the cab of a long-haul truck, the Argentine drama Las Acacias manages to keep your eyes on the screen. First-time director Pablo Giorgelli, who has worked as a film editor and made a documentary short before this feature, risks long takes filled with prosaic motions—getting in and out of the truck, shifting gears, watching for traffic—that make you concentrate on the significance of each gesture or expression. Counter-intuitively, the utter ordinariness of a trucker transporting a woman and her baby from Paraguay to Argentina reassures us that, despite their being strangers to each other in an isolated environment where anything can happen, nothing unusual does. He's not a serial killer, she's not running from an abusive boyfriend, nothing's being smuggled across a border and there's no secret past between them. It's also not a budding romance or friendship, particularly, though it's not devoid of emotion. In a lot of ways, Las Acacias is its own creature.

That starts with the title, which doesn't translate to English: "Las Acacias" appears to be a store or a shopping center in Asunción, Paraguay, as well as an unrelated neighborhood in Montevideo, Uruguay, but the connection isn't apparent. Regardless, Rubén (Germán de Silva), hauling lumber on the more than 800-mile trip, has been told by his boss to take young Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) and her five-month-old daughter, Anahi (Nayra Calle Mamani), to Buenos Aires, where the woman has family and hopes to find a job. The taciturn, pinched-looking Rubén resigns himself to the task, as he clearly has to so much else. Wearing a perpetual scowl of disapproval and mild defeat, he drifts through life like a sigh given shape.

Jacinta, a plain-looking indigenous woman, is nondemanding company, requiring only the occasional stop to warm the baby's bottle and change her diaper. Rubén waits impatiently but uncomplainingly. Little by little, we learn…well, little. The baby's father isn't in the picture (both figuratively and literally). Rubén has a son he barely knows in Argentina—we don't know if the son is grown or not. He has a sister he gets along with, though he's only now dropping off a DVD player for her birthday that occurred two months ago. That's pretty much it, really.

And in its meticulously constructed way, that's pretty much all we need. The nonverbal cues patiently built up over time show us Rubén's longing for human connection, and his fear that he's simply not good at that. Jacinta is harder to parse, but it's clear this single mother's not bitter and no one's doormat.

With spare dialog that lands squarely, Las Acacias makes you concentrate on what the characters are thinking. And you'll more than likely know, since the filmmakers have managed the near-miraculous feat of creating two characters who aren't larger-than-life or quirky or anything other than what you and I might be in their place.


Film Review: Las Acacias

Contemplative slice-of-life Argentine film about a trucker transporting a young mother 800 miles won the Camera d'Or prize for best first film at Cannes.

Sept 10, 2012

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1362778-Las_Acacias_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

For a film whose main location is the cab of a long-haul truck, the Argentine drama Las Acacias manages to keep your eyes on the screen. First-time director Pablo Giorgelli, who has worked as a film editor and made a documentary short before this feature, risks long takes filled with prosaic motions—getting in and out of the truck, shifting gears, watching for traffic—that make you concentrate on the significance of each gesture or expression. Counter-intuitively, the utter ordinariness of a trucker transporting a woman and her baby from Paraguay to Argentina reassures us that, despite their being strangers to each other in an isolated environment where anything can happen, nothing unusual does. He's not a serial killer, she's not running from an abusive boyfriend, nothing's being smuggled across a border and there's no secret past between them. It's also not a budding romance or friendship, particularly, though it's not devoid of emotion. In a lot of ways, Las Acacias is its own creature.

That starts with the title, which doesn't translate to English: "Las Acacias" appears to be a store or a shopping center in Asunción, Paraguay, as well as an unrelated neighborhood in Montevideo, Uruguay, but the connection isn't apparent. Regardless, Rubén (Germán de Silva), hauling lumber on the more than 800-mile trip, has been told by his boss to take young Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) and her five-month-old daughter, Anahi (Nayra Calle Mamani), to Buenos Aires, where the woman has family and hopes to find a job. The taciturn, pinched-looking Rubén resigns himself to the task, as he clearly has to so much else. Wearing a perpetual scowl of disapproval and mild defeat, he drifts through life like a sigh given shape.

Jacinta, a plain-looking indigenous woman, is nondemanding company, requiring only the occasional stop to warm the baby's bottle and change her diaper. Rubén waits impatiently but uncomplainingly. Little by little, we learn…well, little. The baby's father isn't in the picture (both figuratively and literally). Rubén has a son he barely knows in Argentina—we don't know if the son is grown or not. He has a sister he gets along with, though he's only now dropping off a DVD player for her birthday that occurred two months ago. That's pretty much it, really.

And in its meticulously constructed way, that's pretty much all we need. The nonverbal cues patiently built up over time show us Rubén's longing for human connection, and his fear that he's simply not good at that. Jacinta is harder to parse, but it's clear this single mother's not bitter and no one's doormat.

With spare dialog that lands squarely, Las Acacias makes you concentrate on what the characters are thinking. And you'll more than likely know, since the filmmakers have managed the near-miraculous feat of creating two characters who aren't larger-than-life or quirky or anything other than what you and I might be in their place.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here