Film Review: 'So Much Water'

A divorced Uruguayan father takes his two kids on a rain-sodden vacation in this well-observed first feature

A divorced Uruguayan father takes his two kids on a rain-sodden vacation in “So Much Water,” a well-observed first feature from distaff helming duo Ana Guevara Pose and Leticia Jorge Romero. This deceptively ordinary tale has a warmly humanist eye for its characters and the three-way interaction among a firm but loving dad, his rebellious teen daughter and her kid brother, though the film’s p.o.v. unfortunately slides more toward one character as it progresses. “Water” recently won the Miami fest’s top prize and has theatrical potential in the Hispanosphere as well as cinephile cities such as Paris and, possibly, New York.

It’s raining cats and dogs before Alberto (Nestor Guzzini, “Gigante”), a corpulent chiropractor, and his children, 14-year-old Lucia (Malu Chouza) and 10-year-old Fede (Joaquin Castiglioni), have even arrived at the spartan bungalow where they’ll be spending the week. During the long trip by car and the first hours at the somewhat rundown resort — conveyed economically in just a few quick scenes — it’s clear that both kids, especially the unruly Lucia, don’t really want to be there, but are considered too young to have a say in the matter.

Much to the siblings’ dismay, their cabin hasn’t got a TV, and even Daddy’s desire to go to the pool can’t be satisfied, as an oncoming electric storm makes it dangerous to go near the water. Instead, they sit around indoors and occasionally drive to such exciting, kid-appropriate tourist attractions as a dam.

Pose and Romero, who also co-wrote the screenplay, are clearly more interested in the relationship dynamics than in the story per se, and in its relaxed realism and keen eye for the inner workings of a postmodern family, the film bears striking similarities to the recent work of Latin American helmers, such as Pablo Delgado Sanchez’s “The Tears.”

“Water” starts with Alberto, before he picks up the children at their mom’s house, and then expands to give roughly equal attention to the three family members as they interact with each other. One noteworthy scene features Lucia generously applying insect repellent to Alberto, which clearly telegraphs the mutual love underlying the occasional surface animosities. They also find local playmates, and even Dad meets a nice woman, to the chagrin of Lucia, who makes a priceless grimace when she discovers condoms in her father’s luggage.

The genial if strict divorced dad seems to genuinely want to spend time with his offspring, but he’s not the kind of play-it-cool parent who doesn’t set any rules. This obviously creates some friction, especially for the rebellious Lucia. Her ill-fated trip to a disco takes centerstage in the film’s closing reels, unfortunately pushing Alberto and especially Fede into the background, with the sudden swerve in focus creating a certain unevenness as the film draws to a close.

Acting is natural and low-key throughout, and the leads make for an entirely believable family with a shared history. Camerawork and tech credits are intentionally unobtrusive; Maximiliano Angelieri’s score is only sparingly used, a gentle audio reminder that this convincing drama isn’t a verite documentary.

So Much Water
Tanta agua
(Uruguay)

Reviewed at Guadalajara Film Festival (competing), March 5, 2013. (In Berlin Film Festival — Panorama; Miami Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 102 MIN.

A Control Z Films presentation and production, in association with Bonita Films, Topkapi Films, Komplizen Film, in association with ZDF, Arte. (International sales: Alpha Violet, Paris.) Produced by Agustina Chiarino, Fernando Epstein. Co-producers, Tania Zarak, Laurette Schillings, Frans van Gestel, Arnold Heslenfeld, Janine Jackowski, Jonas Dornbach, Maren Ade.

Directed, written by Ana Guevara Pose, Leticia Jorge Romero. Camera (color, HD), Maria Jose Secco; editor, Guevara Pose, Jorge Romero, Yibran Asuad; music, Maximiliano Angelieri; art director, Nicole Davrieux; costume designer, Valentina Luque; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniel Yafalian; line producer, Florencia Chao; assistant director, Diego Ferrando Mazzotti.

With: Nestor Guzzini, Malu Chouza, Joaquin Castiglioni, Sofia Azambuya, Pedro Duarte, Andres Zunini, Romina Rocca, Valentino Muffolini.

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