Carla Simón follows up her glorious, award-winning debut Summer 1993 with an equally sun-dappled portrait of a family facing seismic change.
The Solé family have grown and reaped peaches on their rented land for more than a generation. It’s backbreaking work, involving the extended family and a small army of mostly immigrant labourers. Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet) is the head of the clan, following in his father’s footsteps. Taciturn and rarely given to expressions of happiness or joy, he is as hard on his son as he is his employees, the former exasperated at his father’s unwillingness to listen to his ideas regarding how best to irrigate the land, while the latter are subject to their employer’s often testy mood-swings. It’s a tough life for all, with the threat of nature and a downturn in the fruit’s market value blighting any potential prosperity. But then the owner of the land announces that he plans to uproot all the plum trees and replace them with field after field of solar panels. He offers Quimet the opportunity to retrain as an engineer and look after the new technology. But the decision sets the scene for a turbulent clash between tradition and progress.
Like her resplendent semi-autobiographical debut, Simón’s Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner unfolds in her home region of Catalonia. She came from the very place the film is set and the sense of authenticity throughout the film is palpable. It is also extraordinarily beautiful – capturing the landscape in golden hues, whose serenity contrasts with the Solé’s predicament. But Simón refuses to offer a simple contrast between the roots of tradition versus the uneasiness of change. After all, a world powered by solar panels would be a good thing. It’s in the way Simón navigates this debate, alongside her rich portrayal of family life and stunning vision of this world – aided in no small part by Daniela Cajías’ cinematography – that makes Alcarràs so rewarding.