Film Review: Alcarràs


The livelihoods of three generations of Catalonian peach farmers come under threat when a developer tries to evict the family from the land they have spent their lives farming. Director Carla Simón’s Alcarràs is at once a paean to family, community and a dwindling way of life, and a complex and heartbreaking study of the victims of progress.

Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet) runs a peach farm along with his wife Dolors (Anna Otín), their children Roger (Albert Bosch), Mariona (Xènia Roset), Iris (Ainet Jounou) and elderly father Rogelio (Josep Abad). They have farmed the land for years, but now that the landowner’s son Pinyol (Jacob Diarte) has inherited the plot. Without any formal contract to defend them, Pinyol plans to level the peach trees and replace them with more profitable solar panels. The family are presented with a choice: remain and retrain as engineers, or leave. Either way, their way of life is finished.

Quimet refuses point blank to retrain so the family have until the end of the summer to leave the farm. There’s little else to do until then but to carry on as they always have, and so, they do. Part of Alcarràs’ heartbreaking genius is to offer something that with only light editing would present a bucolic and idealistic portrait of life. The youngest child, Iris, plays with her cousins while Rogelio and the older women tell stories of community resilience; ripe fruit hangs from trees waiting to be picked and old men compete in wine drinking contests. Daniela Cajías’ cinematography is rich with light and life, her shots often in close up and hand held captures not only the family’s emotional life but also their physicality, the dust of dry soil, the juice of a stolen peach as it drips down Iris’ chin, the shock of cold swimming pool water, stone walls bleached by the Catalonian sun.

And yet, the fractures in those sun-bleached walls cannot be ignored. As the summer wanes teenage Roger becomes more unruly while Mariona watches her parents fight from her bedroom window. Meanwhile, political temperatures rise as neighbouring farmers organise to stage a protest against unfair prices. There is a crushing irony that the thing that ultimately unites the family is a political demonstration from which they cannot stand to benefit; an irony reflected by the fact that in the name of progress their future has been stolen from them.

As it often does, the thief of capitalism comes cloaked in the guise of a friend and neighbour: Quimet and his family’s defiance at the protest runs deeper than unfair prices, but against a future that has robbed them of the very ground on which they stand.

Christopher Machell