Alamar opens with what must be one of the most benignly empathetic and logical breakups in movie—and potentially human—history. “I’m unhappy with your reality and you are with mine,” Roberta tenderly tells her now ex-lover Jorge, and, from what we can gather, that’s a considerable understatement. Roberta’s reality is traditionally urban working class while Jorge’s is more primal, as he lives directly off the fruits of the earth. (In truth, you wonder how they made it three years.) Roberta is about to move to Rome to pursue a business opportunity and will be taking their young son Natan with her—with the agreement that Natan will join Jorge for an unspecified amount of time at his home near the Chinchorro Reef beforehand. This will clearly be Jorge and Natan’s last visit for a long while, and the father’s indirect acknowledgment of this is the most haunting bit of dialogue in a film of mostly unspoken splendor: “We’ll be gone for a while, and when we come back, you’ll go with Mommy.”
The above encapsulates the beginning, middle, and end of the film’s traditional plot, and director Pedro González-Rubio manages to get through all of it in a five-minute series of vignettes that would shame James Bond in pre-title narrative efficiency. By minute six or seven, Jorge and Natan are walking in the sandy shores near the latter’s home, after a boat ride establishing the Chinchorro’s considerable otherworldly beauty for us. The opening is a (somewhat) fictional framework that’s been constructed by González-Rubio, usually a documentary filmmaker, to lend the mostly nonfictional footage an emotional urgency—a sense of fragility that ultimately separates Alamar from a typical National Geographic program.
Jorge teaches his son to appreciate his culture—and Natan, whom I assume is three or four years old, absorbs his father’s knowledge with a poignantly simple hunger. Alamar is a daydream of basic, unquestioned human decency that begins with the amicable breakup, and continues with the father and son reverie that is almost entirely drawn through tangible physical activity. Movies so often forget the exhilaration of simply relating a process, no matter what it may be, to an audience. Jorge teaches Natan how to scuba dive for lobster, how to catch barracuda, how to scale fish of varying weights, sizes, and measures of intimidation. The textures are everything. You come away from Alamar remembering Jorge’s father’s smile and pot belly, Jorge’s hand on Natan’s heart, the scales on a fisherman’s forearm, the mug of coffee by the seaside porch, the way Jorge’s feet wrap around a tree, or the carefully employed slow-motion that occasionally captures a particularly divine moment in cinematic amber. The film is more than a celebration of a pictorially stunning place on the Earth; it’s also a poetic testament to those rare moments of profoundly uncomplicated happiness, which are, inevitably, followed by considerable sadness.
The image is pristine and crystal, and this is especially evident in the film's visually amazing underwater sequences. One can also make out the minute details in even less obviously impressive moments, such as the bark on the trees and the grains of sand that cling to the soles of the fishermen. The sound is every bit as vivid, allowing you to make out the differences between various creatures' calls and snaps and pecks. These are the kinds of details that give Alamar its pulse.
Not a lot. There's a short film included as per the tradition of all Film Movement releases. This one, No Corras Tanto, is distinctively illustrated with sand but has the off-putting tone of a sermon, something that the actual feature admirably avoids. The extra scenes are expressive self-contained episodes that are good enough to be in the proper film. There's also a director bio and trailer.
A pristine presentation of an amazing little movie.