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A Kindred Spirit Gets a Lift

MOVIE REVIEW
Las acacias (2012)

Las-acacias-germán-de-silva-hebe-duarte
Verve Pictures

“Las acacias” is about a long-haul truck driver, Rubén (Germán de Silva), and the once-in-a-lifetime chance which arrives in his cab in the shape of Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) and her little daughter Anahí (Nayra Calle Mamani). He was hired for a three-day trip driving her past the Paraguayan border down to Buenos Aires; but the baby was not originally part of the deal. Director Pablo Giorgelli filmed in what looks like a real truck — the movie is named after the load of lumber Rubén is carrying — in patently real locations in Argentina and uses this unlikely setup as an opportunity to explore the size of the human heart.

At the beginning, Rubén and Jacinta speak only out of necessity and treat each other with mutual distrust, although Anahí regards Rubén with interest. They begin chatting later to pass the time. Then when they stop for the night for the first time, something impossible happens: It’s a very small thing, but so important it alters the course of all three of their lives. Capturing it on film should have been impossible, but there it is. Was it faked? How could it have been? Anahí — and the actress playing her — is only five months old.

And yet Anahí is the most important person in the movie. This is also impossible, but it’s true. How did Mr. Giorgelli do it? How were he and his team able to coax Nayra — a baby, a human baby, a tiny baby with hardly any teeth who can’t even sit up on her own — into giving them exactly what they needed? How did Mr. de Silva and Ms. Duarte manage to create their performances, which are mostly glances and body language, around her? And how is a movie with minimal dialogue and almost no action the most fascinating thing on screen in years?

Cinematographer Diego Poleri clearly worked in cramped conditions, but managed to capture the growing relationship between all three people through subtle camera work. The result feels completely natural and unforced, as if we were along for the ride. The rarely-seen-on-film Argentinian landscape is also shot in a way which takes its unusual beauty for granted. Mr. Giorgelli deservedly won the Camera d’or at Cannes with this entrancing film. Very little actually happens in “Las acacias,” but by the end the entire world has changed. Movies like this are miracles.

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