Alcarras Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Carla Simon
Stars: Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Anna Otin, Josep Abad, Albert Bosch, Xenia Roset, Ainet Jounou, Antonia Castells.
The sophomore feature from Spanish filmmaker Carla Simon (Summer 1993) Alcarras is a lyrical, leisurely paced, beautifully observed slice of life drama about a family of peach farmers whose livelihood is under threat from developers. The film was Spain’s official submission for the Best International Film at the 2023 Oscars.
The film is set in the bucolic Alcarras region of Catalonia. For decades the Sole family at the centre of the film has managed their large peach orchard on the land that they have lived on. But following the death of the man from whom they leased the land the owner’s son has refused to honour the handshake agreement and instead plans to rip out the orchard trees and redevelop the land for an array of solar panels which he believes will be much more profitable. The family faces an uncertain future once the harvest has finished. Other neighbouring farmers have already sold up. Meanwhile, there are also protests from the farming co-op against the unfair business practices of the markets and retailers in town who are driving the prices down.
As with her first film there is an almost documentary like feel to Alcarras as the film follows a vanishing way of life. Simon allows the audience to spend time with the family as they go about their daily lives and routines, and we get a glimpse into their life with family gatherings, working the orchard, the fiestas and celebrations. The father Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet, a retired farmer making his film debut) is tough and demanding but he struggles to accept the reality of their situation, while the mother Dolors (Anna Otin) is more empathetic, supportive and caring but can only watch as Quimet struggles to cope with the reality of losing the family orchard. The family patriarch, Quimet’s elderly father Rogelio (Josep Abad), worries about the family’s future, and where they will live. There is an innocence about the younger children who play in the fields and the nearby ruins of a bunker. These scenes all have a natural feel, and most of the cast is comprised of non-professionals who mainly come from a farming background, which further adds to the authentic feel of the material.
Simon’s film deals with some universal themes as it explores family dynamics, community, the clash between tradition and progress, the contrast between rural areas and urban lives, the strong connection to land, and the rush to modernisation and industrialisation that is changing the social fabric. Alcarras has been nicely shot by cinematographer Daniela Cajias (Schoolgirls, etc), who captures the landscapes beautifully.
However, this is not a film that will appeal to everybody though due to the languid pacing and lack of dramatic moments. The scenes of picking peaches and family dinners give the material an air of repetitiveness which may wear thin with more mainstream audiences.