AKA: To the Sea
Year Released: 2009
Distributor: Film Movement
Running Time: 73 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Fishing with John, Taxi (Jafar Panahi film), Rudy and Neal Go Fishing
-Alamar is directed by Belgium-born Mexican filmmaker Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio (no relation to Paulina or Marco) who also worked on Tierra Mira, Inori, and even worked on the movie Babel as one of the filmmakers there.
-Every actor in this film is playing themselves and are related in real life with the exception of the grandfather Machado played by Nestor Marin. He is a father figure to Jorge, but it not related to him (credit to IMDb).
-Hilarious in Hindsight: They catch some blue barracudas in this movie. Tell me I’m not the only one who’s thinking about one of the teams in Legends of the Hidden Temple.
-Language Bonus: Blanquita the egret is played by this elusive Garza Silvestre. It’s actually Spanish for Wild Heron, so it’s not the real name of the bird in question.
-Alamar takes place in Banco Chinchorro. It’s a reef in the Quintana Roo state (Southeastern Mexico near the Belizean border) that is one of the largest reefs in the world.
It’s been such a long time since I’ve reviewed anything from Mexico, so I thought it was time to revisit that country’s cinema around this time. Besides that, I needed to review something different from the things I usually cover. I’m not sure if I ever got this reputation, but I seem to gravitate towards darker or more serious works when it comes to movies, anime, and documentaries. You wouldn’t be wrong about that, but I’m not just a person who needs to see more somber material all the time. The thing is I can have just as much enjoyment for something lighthearted or at the very least calming even though I rarely talk about those works.
Time for that to change, so let’s dive in to something completely different in this cinematic sea.
Alamar is about a young boy named Natan. He’s the son of an Italian woman named Roberta and a Mexican man of Mayan descent named Jorge. Natan usually lives with his mom back in Rome, but he got the opportunity to see his dad back in Mexico for a few weeks. Him, Jorge, and the grandfather Machado go on a boat to see the sights of the natural setting of Banco Chinchorro, go swimming, fishing, finding animals, and living life out in the open seas.
This was a film that I saw at a critical period of time. For weeks, I’ve been dealing with some anxiety issues that I won’t discuss on here, but Alamar was one movie that really calmed me down while watching it which was a huge plus. The naturalistic filming was eye-opening seeing these Mexican marine settings was certainly a thrill to see. This wasn’t some movie that needed hardcore drama or seriousness. It just involved a boy, his father, and grandfather spending time together in the ocean and it surprisingly worked. Watching Alamar, I wondered if this was a straight up a documentary or a well-done docufiction along the lines of a more placid Jafar Panahi. Seeing Natan learn how to fish and swim while his dad Jorge taught him everything he knew was peaceful and very fascinating to watch. One major aspect that I give kudos to (documentary, film, or not) is that it’s a father/son movie that DOESN’T involve the dad dying which is a huge breath of fresh air. Seeing their interactions in the open waters was calming while also a bit humorous at times like how they adopt Blanquita the egret who happens to walk on the boat as if it paid for the vehicle. It also had a great sense of showing opposed to telling when it came to Natan’s thoughts about being with Jorge. Later on in the film, he sings songs about the sea life which shows how enraptured he was in being in the ocean as opposed to his more sheltered upbringing in Rome. The realism and wonder involved from this film was certainly something to behold.
Alamar isn’t a perfect film though. While most of the cinematography is beautiful and creative, one thing that threw off everything were a couple of scenes where the camera got really choppy. There was a subtitle error that I caught when one word read “gong” when it should’ve been “going” during one scene. Despite the intriguing perspectives of the father/son relationships, I felt that I barely knew anything about Roberta. She’s mentioned and shown in the beginning and the very end, but I don’t know that much about her as a person or as a character in the context of this film.
This film from Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio was a splendid watch and a nice surprise. Alamar shows the beauty of Banco Chinchorro while also displaying a healthy relationship between a father and his son which is a rarity in itself documentary or otherwise. There were some errors here and there, but it didn’t detract from the experience of watching this film. You see, not everything I give high marks has to be some grand statement of life or something tragic. Even a simple story about a family living life organically was enough to put a smile on my face while giving me the reasons to recommend it to any movie fan who’s willing to give this maritime film a chance.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like father/son movies.
Add 1 point if you like natural scenery in movies.
Subtract 2-3 points if you like darker films.
Subtract 1 point if you want something with deeper meaning.
-Jaw-dropping footage of Banco Chinchorro and the oceanic scenes
-Amazing real life depiction of a healthy relationship between a father and his son
-Naturally calming aesthetics
-Brief subtitle typos
-Choppy camera in parts
-Underdeveloped representation of Roberta
Final Score: 9/10 points
Content Warning: Alamar is safe for most audiences. Besides one instance of Jorge swearing and fishing scenes with harpoons, scaling fish, or chopping the fresh seafood, there really isn’t anything offensive there.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Alamar is property of Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio and Film Movement. The DVD cover is from Best Buy and is property of Film Movement.