'Adrift'

The existential crisis of a thirtysomething Catalan woman is the subject of Ventura Pons' 20th feature.

The existential crisis of a thirtysomething Catalan woman is the subject of prolific Catalan helmer Ventura Pons’ 20th feature, the challenging yet accessible “Adrift.” Pic reconfirms Pons as an expert analyst of middle-class insecurities and hypocrisies, and the script’s origins as a novel lend it a fluidity and naturalness sometimes missing from his other works. Add a strong, committed central performance from Maria Molins and you have a film that, like Pons’ previous work, will float happily onto the fest circuit following local release in early November.

Disenchanted Anna (Molins) abandons the NGO she’s been working for. The trauma of her experiences in Africa, together with her sense of helplessness, will cause her indecisiveness through the rest of the pic.

She starts work as a security guard at an exclusive health clinic, where she finds plenty of examples of human decadence and misery to direct her anger toward. There she becomes a night-shift soulmate to Carducci (Albert Perez, compelling), a good-hearted gay physical therapist who gives her a mobile home to live in. But Anna has lost interest in life, even passively allowing a long-term relationship to fade into nothing.

Mysterious Giro (Roger Coma) has been found paralyzed on the clinic’s grounds and refuses to say who he is. Like Anna, he’s apparently seeking to escape from the world and proves initially aggressive. Later, in a too-rapid turnaround, he becomes her lover.

Initially, Anna lives on a campsite, where she’s harassed by the brutish owner (Oscar Rabadan). She then vengefully beats him up before moving her mobile home to the forecourt of a service station.

Though the protag’s aimlessness and lack of commitment mean the movie’s structure is anything but taut, “Adrift” is always interesting, largely due to a lineup of talented thesps who can galvanize even with the slenderest character profiles.

Either silent or irritable, and perpetually haunted, Anna is pretty charmless much of the time. It’s to Molins’ credit that she invests the character with an energy and verve that suggest there’s a better person inside trying to get out. And it’s that better person the viewer identifies with.

Script keeps things lively but, as always in Pons’ films, some points are driven home with sledgehammer subtlety. Handheld lensing is busy but not obtrusively so. Generic docu-style images of African misery punctuate the movie, at one point intercut with a sex scene: The effect is clumsy but powerful.

Carles Casas’ score feels a little adrift itself, ranging from classical music through tinkly piano to African-influenced sounds, but a recurring melody is haunting.

Adrift

Production

A Baditri release of an Els Films de la Rambla production, with participation of TVC. (International sales: Latido Films, Madrid.) Produced, directed, written by Ventura Pons, based on the novel by Lluis Anton Baulenes.

Crew

Camera (color), Joan Minguell; editor, Pere Abadal; music, Carles Casas; art director, Bel.lo Torras; sound (Dolby Digital), Natxo Ortuzar. Reviewed at Cines Golem, Madrid, Nov. 7, 2009. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Maria Molins, Roger Coma, Fernando Guillen, Albert Perez, Anna Azcona, Oriol Tramvia, Marc Cartes, Merce Pons, Boris Izaguirre. (Catalan dialogue)
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