Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Las Acacias

Las Acacias is playing on March 22 and 24 as part of the New Directors/New Films series.

The cab of a truck is the setting for this beautifully told love story, in which three strangers—a lonely truck driver, a young mother, and her baby—slowly and organically coalesce into something close to a family unit.

The driver is Rubén (Germán de Silva), a wiry middle-aged man with a lined poet’s face. He has arranged, presumably for a little extra cash, to let Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) accompany him on a trip from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. The mutual acquaintance who connected the two didn’t mention Jacinta’s baby, Anahi (the adorable Nayra Calle Mamani), and he’s none too happy to see her.

They drive in silence for a while, getting a sense of each other, as we do of them, purely through their actions. When they start to talk, it’s in little shards of conversation that convey just the basics, like the fact that she is from Paraguay and he’s from Argentina.

The driver’s and passenger’s seats feel like separate countries too, as Rubén concentrates on the road while Jacinta stares out her window or interacts quietly with her daughter, but the distance between them feels respectful rather than icy. They soon start to connect in small but significant ways, the camera shifting back and forth from his point of view to hers in shots whose unshowy beauty mirrors the delicacy of their interactions.

Anahi makes the first move, fixing her enormous black eyes on Rubén until he meets her gaze. As she wins him over, Rubén and Jacinta bond too, their initial good manners warming into trust and then intimacy. Crucial bits of their past emerge as they usually do in life, not through torrents of talk but through a shared experience or a passing remark, like Jacinta’s comment that Anahi has “no father” or Rubén sad little anecdote about the last time he saw his own son, eight years ago.

There’s no talk of romance or physical contact in his courtly courtship, but Rubén’s feelings for Jacinta are clear as he watches forlornly from a distance when she chats with another driver at a truck stop, or starts helping her climb into the truck instead of letting her manage alone, as he had done at first. Watching his stony self-containment melt is so moving that it’s painful to watch him stiffen back up as they near Buenos Aires.

Will this little island of warmth and companionship float away so soon, leaving him that much more aware of his loneliness? The thought is so sad that the happy ending we get instead, although it is as gracefully understated as the rest of this movie, feels huge.

Written for The L Magazine

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