Norwegian helmer Bent Hamer follows his lauded 1995 debut, "Eggs," with this tasty but small-proportioned meditation on culture clash and discovery, as a young sailor awaiting the repair of a watch hangs with the locals in a rugged, picturesque Spanish port. Episodic and elliptical pic finally proves too fragile a vessel to sail to significant commercial destinations, though fest berths will be in easy reach.

Norwegian helmer Bent Hamer follows his lauded 1995 debut, “Eggs,” with this tasty but small-proportioned meditation on culture clash and discovery, as a young sailor awaiting the repair of a watch hangs with the locals in a rugged, picturesque Spanish port. Episodic and elliptical pic finally proves too fragile a vessel to sail to significant commercial destinations, though fest berths will be in easy reach.

Apparently distracted by an eclipse, 20-year-old rookie sailor Almar (Eric Magnusson) drops an ornate gold pocket watch and dives into the sea to retrieve it. Told by a fussy watchmaker at his next port of call that the timepiece must be soaked in “sweet” water for 24 hours as a first step to repair, Almar reluctantly jumps ship in Galacia and begins his quiet vigil.

In short order, he meets frazzled Australian sailor Windy (Nicholas Hope, from “Bad Boy Bubby” and “Henry Fool”), who regales the lad with stories of his travels and introduces him to lighthouse keeper Molina (Francisco Rabal), a robust sort who likes mother’s milk from the source and a cherished Norwegian calypso record. Almar is also run over by a scooter skippered by the sweet-natured Marta (Ingrid Rubio), with whom he begins a largely chaste relationship as she shows him the sights.

With repairs dragging comically on, Almar is enlisted in a series of adventures involving Windy’s petty thievery; eventually, the extra-legal antics land him on the bad side of a shadowy group of thugs, and tragedy intervenes.

Chockablock with warm, disheveled oddballs, pic has a personal vision that is both its chief strength and ultimate downfall. As cryptic as the material is, Hamer is clearly and comfortably on top of it, with a deliberate and deadpan approach — similar to the mood of “Eggs” but without its freshness — that is at first pleasing. But this gradually wears thin as it becomes clear that the movie has no great revelations or epiphanies on offer for either its characters or viewers.

Sublime visuals abound, but by pic’s end one is left only with the gentle absurdities of individual moments and the idiosyncrasies of the characters who populate them.

Magnusson is fine, if often exasperatingly passive, as the young seafarer, while Rubio’s ingratiating smile recalls “Seinfeld’s” Elaine without the neuroses.

Hope is oddly subdued as Windy, opting more for surly than surreal despite having most of the movie’s good lines. Rabal provides warm, if cliched, local color as the booze-addled sentinel. Fellow Spaniard Pilar Bardem has a single, memorable scene as a town prostie.

Tech credits are crisp, with Phillip Ogaard’s evocative lensing making the most of the narrow cobbled streets and an isolated seaside bar fronted by a gargantuan, half-submerged freighter. Skafti Gudmundsson’s cutting is pleasingly offbeat, while Scandi rock outfit Flesh Quartet’s music is satisfyingly atmospheric and spare. Original title translates as “One More Day in the Sun”; English title is never explained.

Water Easy Reach

Norway

Production

A BulBul Film production, in association with Liberator Prods., Babel Films, La Sept-Arte, Norsk Film, Audiovisuelt Produksjonsfond, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, TV2 (Norway). (International sales: BV Intl., Avaldsnes, Norway.) Produced by Finn Gjerdrum. Co-producers, Marianne Slot, Vibeke Windelev. Directed, written by Bent Hamer.

Crew

Camera (color), Phillip Ogaard; editor, Skafti Gudmundsson; music, the Flesh Quartet; art director, Juan Botella; costumes, Sonia Grande; sound (Dolby SR/DTS), Per Carleson, Owe Svensson. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 11, 1998. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Almar ..... Eric Magnusson Windy ..... Nicholas Hope Marta ..... Ingrid Rubio Molina ..... Francisco Rabal (English dialogue)
With: Luis Cuenca, Jose Luis Fonoll, Pilar Bardem, Leif Andree, Gran Wyoming, Alfonso Vallejo.
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