Film bits and bobs
Review first published on EyeforFilm
At the break of dawn, a family of four sets off north from their Santiago home for a long weekend camping trip – but before they have even started driving, the mother Ana (Paola Giannini) asks the unnamed father (Francisco Pérez-Bannen): “Are you sure you want me to go?”
Not long afterwards, the father will tell Ana, “A friend of Felipe has to leave his apartment, and he offered it to me,” and will claim that staying in a hotel for a few days is “too expensive”. In other words, the first morning is not yet over in this Thursday Till Sunday road trip, and already it is clear that this husband and wife are planning to separate. Less clear is how much ten-year-old Lucia (Santi Ahumada, extraordinary in her first film) or her younger brother Manuel (Emiliano Freifeld) know of this, and so the film adopts a child’s quizzical perspective on adult affairs.
For, much like the ever-watchful Lucia, the camera of Bárbara Álvarez (regular DP for Lucretia Martel) carefully observes the tensions mounting against a backdrop of stifling car interiors, accident-strewn highways, pig-invaded campsites, arid deserts and barren family properties – all landscapes that mirror the young girl’s anxieties. “I’m scared,” Lucia tells her mother at the campsite, although of what precisely she is unable to articulate. The next morning she will recount to her father a nightmare in which she was confronted with an impossible choice between three equally perilous outcomes. “I had to choose,” she says, “I told them I wanted none.”
The question of how much Lucia understands what is going on around her is dramatised through a recurrent motif of bilingual exchanges. Trying to speak furtively with her husband about a larcenous maid, Ana shifts from Spanish to English, only for Lucia to declare:”I know you guys are talking about Miss Juanita!” Later, Lucia will describe how the latest trend at her school is to mix a bit of English and Spanish in phrases. Later still, both Lucia and Manuel will listen in rapt attention as José (Axel Dupré), the young son of a fellow camper (Jorge Becker) who is friends with Ana, tells them a rapid-fire story that is mostly in French. Perhaps the siblings do not understand all, or even many, of José’s words, but they seem nonetheless to be catching the general drift of his narrative. These polyglot scenes obliquely reflect the children’s comprehension of the broader story unfolding before them.
Yet, as mother, father, daughter and son travel their bumpy course into an uncertain future, we (at least) understand the situation from so early on that no destination on the maps reveals anything that we do not already know. Consequently, while writer/director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo is to be commended for the extreme subtlety and understated naturalism of her feature debut, these very same qualities ensure that the road is, like so many family trips, long, uneventful and a not a little tedious – although the view from the window is most certainly pretty.