Nature smiles upon Alamar, just as it did on the simple, unfussy charms of The Black Stallion some 30 years ago. This quiet, swift movie—destined to be appreciated by thoughtful kids (and G-rated, appropriately)—starts with a rift in the man-made world, a divorce. In plain images, we briefly see the rise and fall of an idyllic marriage, from beach-blanket caresses to isolated stares. A small hand is held, that of five-year-old Natan (Machado Palombini), who, before moving to Rome with his Italian mother, will travel with his sinewy Mexican dad (Machado) to coastal Banco Chinchorro in the Caribbean, where he’ll have a crash course in the life of a fisherman.
Are we watching a documentary? Settling into a small hut on stilts surrounded by turquoise water, Alamar casts an uncommonly realistic spell, father bonding with son as they pull wriggling snappers from the depths alongside a grinning grandpa. All of these actors share the names of their characters; this was once an actual family, and director Pedro Gonzlez-Rubio (shooting his own footage) respects their space. Warm breezes blow away any psychobabble—we never hear talk about “being strong” or the vagaries of love. The boy grows up fast.
Don’t lean too hard on the movie’s subtext; it can’t bear the freight. Generally speaking, Alamar is about the possibilities of parenting, and to attach a tragic component to it would be too leading. Rather, relish in the adventure. A white bird steps gingerly into the living room; they befriend it, and it eventually flies on. A message is placed in a bottle, its destination unknown. Against all odds, the film has drama enough.—Joshua Rothkopf