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TIFF 09: "To the Sea" (Pedro González-Rubio, Mexico)

The find of the Toronto film festival is the micro-sized, micro-budgeted Mexican debut Alamar (To the Sea) by Pedro González-Rubio, who has found a documentary subject and turned it into a lovely, modest, and sweet fiction of the real world.  Taking three real people—the one-time couple of Mexican Jorge, Italian Roberta, and their young son Natan—and inspiration from their real situation—Roberta lives in Rome, Jorge off the coast of Mexico— González-Rubio tweaks the facts to film a relaxed and happy look at the last days Natan has with his father and grandfather fishing in Mexico before moving to Rome with his mother.

Filmed in such a way as to nearly forget the camera is there—and if the camera is there, the film’s crew must be utterly minimal—we see the eldest of three generations of men coax and teach the son and grandson how to fish, how to boat, how to get used to this life by the sea.  We see a variety of fish caught, scaled, cut, cooked, and eaten; we see the boy bond with a beautiful white egret named Blanquita, who takes the only female role in the film; we see father and son snorkel and play and otherwise have a wonderful time living.  Alamar simply, beautifully frames this sensuous but brief seaside respite of togetherness through an opening series of photographs and home movies.  The voiceover by both Natan’s mother and father testifies to their brief romance by the sea, which may not have created a relationship but did create their son, and that, ultimately, each lived in their own worlds that were not compatible—a fact Nathan has to deal with by getting used to his father’s life.

From the long past ashes of that relationship comes the simple delight of the three men working, playing, and living together, Natan gradually learning to enjoy the sparse, basic lifestyle.  The notable absence of wives and mothers for all three becomes all the more tangible as the egret, with remarkable naturalness, practically becomes a character in González-Rubio’s relaxed vacation on the sea. González-Rubio’s is a sojourn of a film, getting the simplicity and details of a wonderful but limited experience down to their most honest, most untroubled, most tender, and often most beautiful essences.

I had time to switch into this one earlier today but didn’t make the decision. Sometimes I hate life… By the way, Daniel, how do you feel about Tsai’s Face? I stepped out of a screening last night and may have felt something like love.

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