Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), MUBI (3/5)
The winds of change can be hard to endure, as the members of the extended multigenerational Solé family is beginning to discover for themselves. Having worked the land near the small Catalonian town of Alcarràs for generations, these hard-working peach farmers now face eviction from their property as a result of a real estate technicality that allows for its seizure for development purposes (in this case as an expansive solar panel farm). It’s a change that not only threatens their way of life, but also places undue pressures on the stability of this otherwise-tightly knit family. As a “sign of the times” picture seeking to poignantly capture the challenges faced by the family farming community, writer-director Carla Simón’s second feature capably illustrates what its constituents are up against from issues like inadequate crop prices, intrusive government and business interests, and an allegedly well-meaning but often-overly aggressive green energy industry. In many ways, this offering thus echoes the sentiments of such “save the farm” films of the 1980s as “Country,” “The River” and “Places in the Heart” (all from 1984), skillfully generating sympathy for those affected, both in their livelihoods and personally. And it accomplishes these objectives with a cast of local, largely nonprofessional actors from this region of northeastern Spain. However, despite these strengths, this release begins to drag somewhat in the second half with a few too many unfocused slice of life moments, particularly an excess of sequences depicting rambunctious, noisy children at play, scenes that could have been easily cut (a circumstance that brings new meaning to the notion of “killing one’s darlings”). The character development is also uneven at times, with some roles successfully fleshed out and others left noticeably incomplete. I truly believe that “Alcarràs” is a story with its heart in the right place, but its execution could definitely use some shoring up in key areas to more effectively bring it to life, especially in light of what it has to say.