The Movie Waffler New to VOD - ALCARRÀS | The Movie Waffler


A family faces eviction from their Catalonian farm.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Carla Simón

Starring: Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Anna Otin, Xènia Roset, Albert Bosch, Ainet Jounou, Josep Abad, Montse Oró

Alcarras poster Carla Simon

Carla Simón's (with co-writer Arnau Vilaró) second feature Alcarrás is a picture that pitches tradition against progress and uses a verisimilitude style to convey the idealised bucolic of its narrative. This is a film of contradictions, which captures the spirited energies of a family within a lens as calm and steady as afternoon sun. Wide releasing after its win of Berlinale's 2022 Golden Bear, it isn't difficult to see why Alcarrás has been so critically lauded. Authenticity is the key word here, from the rich sense of place to Simón's use of non-actors to portray her family of peach farmers on their uppers.

Alcarras review Carla Simon

We open with a trio of little kids messing around in an out-of-use car somewhere in the Catalan sticks (the titular village of the title). Off camera there is a dense rumbling heard, and the kids stare out of the rusty 2CV in terrified awe at whatever is making their little den shake: not since Jurassic Park have children sat in a cramped automobile been depicted as scared as this. It transpires that the racket is being made by a convey of trucks, their pale white anonymity a forbidding contrast to the lush mise-en-scene of verdant groves and tangerine sun, and (in what Roland Barthes might call a "symbolic code") their buzzing engines tearing through the gentle ambiance like a chainsaw. The earlier filmic comparison holds: these invaders are a bit like the governmental descent which commandeers innocent suburbia in E.T.. Likewise the care and affection with which Simón depicts the extended familia is also in the vein of Spielberg's detailed domestic intimacy.

The nub of the film is that the family's land has been bought out against their wishes, due to the reneging of an archaic verbal contract made during the Civil War. The prospect of disruption affects each family member in a different way: the little kids are all excited about the JCBs and stuff which stand waiting on the outskirts of the orchards, while in a bittersweet manner the older teens see the world opening up in new ways, with the elder patriarch accepting the loss of the place he has worked his entire life with a sense of sad certainty. Papá Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet) takes it the hardest. Furious at the carelessness that has led to them losing their source of familial income, Quimet makes himself unwell, literally undertaking back breaking work in a vain attempt to stave off the inescapable. In a scene of heart-breaking delicacy, we see a grandfather and his granddaughter pick fruit together, conveying the importance of the farm to the family, not only in terms of remuneration but identity.

Alcarras review Carla Simon

Simón's eye is pleasingly objective. Although there are depictions of protest from Quimet and other farmers, she is  disinterested in moralising, and more geared toward representing the burgeoning family dynamic. The eldest son, uninterested anyway in carrying on the family business, goes into town to small clubs playing godawful European techno and to get into hopeless scraps. The tween sister spends her days awkwardly practicing dance routines for a show, but when the moment comes, away from the sanctuary of the farm and in front of an assembled crowd of strangers, she cannot muster the courage to perform. There is nothing for them in the life they presently lead, and the implication is that the farm has made them insular, limiting their prospects. Is the deliberate leitmotif of dead rabbits - shot at, run over, even accidentally drowned in the house pool - a signifier of an inexorably brutal world which the family are not only involved in but inevitably perpetuate? Certainly, the film pointedly shows the farmers exploiting the gig economy for cheap labour, hiring workers whom they pejoratively refer to as "the blacks."

Alcarras review Carla Simon

With its solar inflected frames, and raw but warm depiction of rural life, Alcarrás is always lovely to look at. However, in terms of character study, like the cultivation and harvest of the fruit which it portrays, the narrative is often a slow and deliberate process. Nonetheless, at this point in the year, escaping into its lush, Mediterranean panoramas may well prove peachy.

Alcarrás is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews