As an exercise in pared down narratives, Alamar is a storming success. A simple tale of a father (Jorge Machado) who takes his son (Natan Machado Palombino) on a holiday to an idyllic destination somewhere off the coast of Mexico to explore his roots and traditions. His parents (the actor’s real life family) are separated and, judging by his uncomfortable transition into the life of a fisherman, this is Natan’s first trip to his father’s homeland.
Having braved sea-sickness they arrive at a house on stilts, quietly stood in the middle of the calm waters – a scene of heavenly beauty and peace. Together they live a self-sufficient life sustained by fishing whilst Jorge teaches Natan about life and equipping him with the basic skills for survival.
When Natan grows frustrated at his apparent inability to catch a fish his father advises him that “You need patience to be a fisherman”. This could well be the mantra of Alamar which despite only clocking in at 73 minutes does rely on the audiences’ persistence and willingness to partake in a film where very little happens and even less is said.
However, there is much to be admired in Alamar; the naturalistic performances are nuanced and a joy to watch; the minutiae of their daily lives are esquisitely captured, no more so than when Jorge is preparing a fish for dinner and the silvery scales fall to the wooden boards like clusters of stars; Natan’s budding friendship with an inquistive egret; Jorge’s diving expertise and highly finessed fishing techniques.
There is an environmental awareness underscoring Alamar as man is seen living in harmony with nature, sharing a balanced relationship of give and take. In the press notes, the director (Pedro González-Rubio) cites his concerns for the fate of Playa del Carmen in Mexico where whole stretches of coral reef have been irreversibly damaged and sewage is pumped into the ocean: the collateral damage of Mexico’s tourist industry. It is to Alamar’s credit that it may be the best film in years to deal with issues of climate change and environmentalism without resorting to piety. Ultimately it is terribly sad that Jorge’s way of life may one day cease to exist which will be a small human tragedy with global implications.