Dir: Pablo Giorgelli. Argentina/Spain. 2011. 85mins
A tender road movie infused with a subtle sense of loss and loneliness, Las Acacias marks an assured and gently beguiling first feature from writer/director Pablo Giorgelli. The slow burning pace and modest nature of the story may not be to all tastes but Giorgelli rewards the viewer with a film whose warm humanity should allow it to connect with a general audience.
Giorgelli shows a great deal of confidence in his refusal to overstate the emotional stakes or sweep the story towards unnecessary melodrama.
Further festival exposure seems assured with the possibility of some theatrical interest among distributors with a track record of nurturing small, engaging, word-of-mouth international titles like Mid-August Lunch or The Pope’s Toilet.
The strength of Las Acacias lies in its simplicity and acutely observed range of easily recognisable human emotions. Ruben (German de Silva) is a truck driver transporting lumber between Asuncion del Paraguay and Buenos Aires. He has agreed to take a passenger Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) who arrives burdened with bags and a cute, wide-eyed, chubby cheeked five-month-old baby Anahi (Nayra Calle Mamani) who steals the audience’s heart in much the same way as she charms Ruben.
Small acts of kindness and stolen glances gradually ease the initial discomfort between a weary Ruben and a wary Jacinta creating the possibility of a bond that the audience becomes complicit in encouraging to grow.
The journey continues, providing little telling details on the son that the stoical Ruben hasn’t seen in eight years and Jacinta’s circumstances. A scene where the trio sit by a river and are visited by a dog suggests how easily it would be to mistake them for a fond family group.
Giorgelli shows a great deal of confidence in his refusal to overstate the emotional stakes or sweep the story towards unnecessary melodrama. There is a hint of jealousy when Jacinta meets a fellow driver who proves to be a near neighbour from Paraguay.
There is also a potent sense of possibilities about to slip through Ruben’s fingers the nearer they come to Buenos Aires and Jacinta’s cousins. By then we have grown so close to the characters that the chance of them not finding a happy ending is almost unbearable.
Unobtrusive camerawork maintains the focus on the characters and the story whilst opening out a potentially claustrophobic narrative with fleeting scenes of sunsets and forests, stopovers and border patrols.
The carefully nuanced central performances convincingly suggest the blossoming affection between Ruben and Jacinta with the smallest gesture and slightest glance. In its best moments of quiet contemplation and piercing emotion, Las Acacias ultimately earns its place in a humanist tradition that stretches from Renoir to Ray and beyond.
Production companies: Airecine, Utopica Cine, Proyecto Experience
International sales: Urban Distribution International, www.urbandistrib.com
Producers: Veronica Cura, Ariel Rotter, Alex Zito, Pablo Giorgelli, Eduardo Carneros, Javier and Esteban Ibarretxe
Screenplay: Pablo Girogelli, Salvador Roselli
Cinematography: Diego Poleri
Production designer: Yamila Fontan
Editor: Maria Astrauskas
Main cast: German de Silva, Hebe Duarte, Nayra Calle Mamani