LFF

BFI London Film Festival 2011: ‘Las Acacias’

★★★☆☆

You know those long awkward car journeys you use to have as a kid in a foreigner’s car, crossing the border from Paraguay to Argentina? Pablo Giorgelli’s Las Acacias (2011) – which receives its UK premiere tonight at the 55th BFI London Film Festival – is one of those. At 90 minutes, it’s a slow-paced road trip, but one that soon finds it own charming gear.

Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) is heading to Buenos Aires to see her family. Reluctantly, Rubén (Germán de Silva) agrees to give her a lift as a favour to his boss – and consequently finds out that she has a baby too.

As Las Acacias bumps along, the two inevitably become close, but this is far from the romanticised road trips of Hollywood. They barely even talk to each other. What dialogue there is (about 10 minutes of the total runtime) is short and sparse, but the chemistry between the couple is tangible, even while director Giorgelli is busy looking out the window at the sunlit trees that drift past.

Confined to his truck’s cab, De Silva is gruff and distant at first. In contrast, newcomer Duarte is a light presence, all cute smiles and likable expressions. They’re superb, understated turns, but both are almost upstaged by the adorable Nayra Calle Mamani, a 5-month-old actress who brings a large dollop of emotion to the tale.

A natural performer, she stares at Rubén intently, smiles slowly, then breaks the fourth wall altogether by looking at the camera. At one point, she sneezes, stealing the entire scene. No wonder Rubén goes from grumpy lorry driver to cuddly teddy bear in a single journey. Even his stubble seems to soften by the film’s second half.

Giorgelli’s cheerful colour palette, steady camera and long, slow takes settle into a calming rhythm, which absorbs the audience the longer it lasts. The trip won’t stay with you forever, but while you’re sitting in the back seat, Las Acacias is a pleasant and relaxing ride.

For more BFI London Film Festival 2011 coverage, simply follow this link.

Ivan Radford