Synopsis: A lonely truck driver (Germán de Silva) must transport an unknown woman (Hebe Duarte) and her baby along the motorway between Asunción del Paraguay and Buenos Aires.
Argentinean road trip movie takes a very slow lane.
BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: A lonely, middle-aged truck driver transports a young single mother and her five months old baby from Paraguay to Buenos Aires in Argentinean writer/director Pablo Giorgelli’s debut feature.
Las Acacias features subtly engaging performances from the two leads but the road movie rarely picks up speed, hindered by long stretches without dialogue, sketchy characterisations and minimal dramatic build-up.
Germán de Silva plays Rubén, a truck driver for 30 years, an introverted man of few words with a surly disposition. Via his unseen boss Fernando, he arranges to take a woman named Jacinta (newcomer Hebe Duarte), to Buenos Aires where he’s delivering a load of timber; the only connection is that Jacinta’s mother works for Fernando at his home.
Jacinta turns up with baby Anahí (Nayra Calle Mamani), a noisy, unwelcome extra passenger in Rubén’s jaded eyes. Pedants will notice neither adult wears seat belts and there’s no child restraint.
For many kilometres few words are exchanged. At a café while mother and child are in the rest room, the truckie inquires if he can buy tickets for them on a bus to BA, but finds out the next bus is tomorrow.
It takes a while for Rubén to ask Jacinta’s name and that of her infant and her age. Sensing the driver’s cold, stiff manner, Jacinta keeps to herself, beyond stating she intends to work in BA, where her cousin lives. Of her daughter, she says simply, “She has no father.”
Asked whether he has a family, Rubén initially says no, then acknowledges he has a son whom he met when he was four, the boy lives in Mendoza but he hasn’t seen him for eight years.
He stops off at his sister’s house to give her a belated birthday present. Among the few dramatic moments, Rubén nearly nods off at the wheel until Jacinta yells at him, and after stopping to ring her mother she’s upset and cries; he doesn’t ask why.
Rubén gradually starts to show a little warmth and kindness, perhaps softened by the baby: Nayra is a real cutie who could melt the heart of even the hardest man.
Giorgelli favours long takes, a technique which challenges his actors, particularly when their conversations are so sporadic, but they’re both effective at conveying feelings with a gaze, glance and body language.
Within the confines of the script, de Silva adroitly embodies a solitary individual with bottled-up emotions. Facing similar constraints, Duarte imparts the air of a woman who has suffered a lot but is a caring mother and retains a sense of optimism.
Nayra seems to possess an uncanny ability to bawl, laugh and smile on cue, indicative either of an instinctive talent or the director doing multiple takes until he got the reactions he wanted.
Most of the film takes place in the truck’s cabin but Giorgelli avoids a boxed-in atmosphere by shooting from various angles.
However at journey’s end, one may well ask: Is that all there is?
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