FOUR AND A HALF STARS A family faces unstoppable change when solar panels threaten their peach farm.
DRAMA Spain Catalan #ALCARRAS
Starring Josep Abad, Anna Otin
The unforgiving could, with some justification, argue that ALCARRÀS is just a two hour slog about picking peaches. While that may be not unreasonable (there is a lot fruit picking to watch), it overlooks nearly everything about this finely nuanced and quite extraordinary Spanish drama.
For a start there’s Grandpa’s guilt. He, his children and grandchildren have been farming land west of Barcelona for decades. The problem is, they laboured under a gentleman’s agreement and the time for such understanding has passed. With no legal claim to the land they live on, the family will be pushed out once harvest is over. The owner has plans to expand his solar farm, remove their peach trees and with them their entire way of life. Granted the economics don’t stack up. There’s no money in fruit as all the adults - bitterly resentful of their situation - understand. However you can’t eat solar panels. Nor, it seems, can you stop progress.
These essential themes are woven into every scene, most of which are, outwardly, little more than minor domestic dramas in which not a lot happens: kids play in the trees, the family has dinner, the eldest boy plants weed and so on. There’s no big arc, no big moment. Yet by stealth they coalesce to present a heavily detailed reflection of contemporary farming and a vanishing way of life. Everything is there: the aforementioned guilt, drama, love, anguish, foresight, forgiveness, politics, community, blood, sweat, tears, laughter and above all, love. These are people who fully understand what they, and the country, is loosing every time a farm like theirs is flattened for the sake of progress.
There’s a profound sense of authenticity about the point-and-shoot nature ALCARRÀS and with good reason; only one of the cast is a professional actor. Their relative lack of expertise deepens the experience as a fizzy ensemble pulls us in a dozen different ways yet always feel entirely real. It strengthens the experience when we’re returned to the matter at hand - earth shifting under the feet of people wondering who they will become once they’re forced away from it.
ALCARRÀS is a bright film. The endless days of Spanish summer can be dazzling, but look a little further as it strikes a balance between the beautifully observed domestic drama and its bristling political conscience. A new way of life may be easier work it says, it may earn more to put food on the table, but if I had to choose between eating a peach or a solar panel, well, I’m with the family.