City Paper is not for tourists.
The couple in Alamar is much more Zen about its breakup. The man, Jorge (Jorge Machado), admits to having felt “lost” after he split from Roberta (Roberta Palombini). But both realized not only that their feelings had changed, but that their preferred ways of life were irreconcilable: Jorge, a Mexican, loved a simple existence “in the jungle,” spending his time on the beach and the sea. Roberta, meanwhile, is Italian, and needs an urban environment.
She doesn’t regret their union, however, because she believes they were fated to meet and have their son, 5-year-old Natan (Natan Machado Palombini), “this specific boy with a specific story.” Roberta intends to move back to Italy with Natan, but before they leave, Jorge wants to take Natan on a trip to show him his Mayan roots.
You’ll notice that the boy’s real name is a combination of the couple’s. The Machado-Palombinis are indeed a family and Alamar (“to the sea”) a quasi-documentary. (The film’s director, Pedro González-Rubio, is also credited as a screenwriter.) Like the recent Somewhere, the focus of the film is the relationship between father and child, and there’s not so much a story to be told as experiences to be witnessed.
Jorge takes Natan over choppy seas to the Chinchorro reef, where they spend most of their time on the water with the boy’s grandfather (Nestór Marín). They fish, they cook, they wrestle, they lie around. At nearly every step, Natan learns something: We see him snorkeling, very hesitantly, for the first time. He watches his father scale fish and helps him and granddad remove shells. He’s taught to be gentle with birds (a cattle egret makes a lovely cameo) and make tortillas. Throughout, Natan’s eyes are ours, and the world we see—clear waters, lush vegetation, a high sun whose warmth we can practically feel—is a bit magical.
Although the 73-minute film is aimless, it’s lulling in its intimate and quiet portrait of this family’s day-to-day activities. González-Rubio keeps the camera close, tight on the characters’ faces or feet or hands as they go about their physical and relaxing journey. With soothing waves almost always filling the background, Alamar is the opposite of stimulating storytelling: It’s a pseudo-vacation.