An Imperfect Family: Our Review of ‘Alcarras’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 13, 2023
An Imperfect Family: Our Review of ‘Alcarras’

Carla Simon’s Alcarras is technically a Spanish film even if depicts a family within that country’s Catalan minority. And somehow it has more in common with contemporary French filmmaking that it does with its Spanish counterparts. At the risk of sounding reductive, contemporary French cinema has both proletarian angst and rebellious teens. And this film has both. This film’s teen and youth contingent are Iris (Ainet Jounou), Mariona (Xenia Roset), and Roger Sole (Albert Bosch). They are noticing the changes within ‘their’ peach farm in rural Catalonia but are still trying to do whatever young people do. Their father Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet) tries to raise them. But raising them involves doing so in a changing world.

Alcarras, fortunately, doesn’t have a straightforward arc where its characters are stumbling headfirst into a scary future, as it has scenes where the family just spends time together. These scenes show the kind of things that children are curious about as well as the gossip and prejudices simmering within the adult characters. The children are also thankful towards their father. He is, after all, putting the most food in the table for everyone to enjoy. But the film eventually and slowly reveals that he’s not a perfect guy. The characters judge Quimet more than the other adults. But those other adults get their share of judgment through Simon’s camerawork and screenplay. In other words, this film is very female gaze in its de-idealization.

I almost forgot to explain the quote marks when I wrote that the Sole family work on ‘their’ peach farm. Ouimet’s grandfather protected the real landowner’s great-grand father, an offscreen and deceased Don Pinyol. This was during the Spanish Civil War, and the film is cagey about what side both families were on. Anyway, in return, as a handshake deal, the Pinyols allow the Soles to farm on the former’s lands. The new young Don, however, wants to turn the farm into a solar panel farm which Ouimet doesn’t want to work on. And accordingly, even his children are feeling that they’re living on borrowed time. Iris and Mariona, the family’s younger children, have their anxieties manifest in different ways.

There’s a version of this film where Simon would not make the younger characters quirky and instead make them into full neurotics but thankfully, she doesn’t do this. There are scenes here where she imbues her images with appropriate anxiety. In one, Roger comes home after a night of partying and sees that the peaches have more of their share of either rainwater or over irrigation. In another, he sees an irrigation system not work the way it does, but goes to a party anyway. Simon’s film doesn’t chide these characters in dealing with their problems the way normal people do. And she finds a balance the way people in real life find it. Sometimes, characters aren’t coping, but what can they do?

Carla Simon’s Alcarras has a theatrical run in select cinemas like the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Canada, and it comes to MUBI next month.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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