This Argentinean road movie directed by Pablo Giorgelli encapsulates film realism. It was chosen for Official Selection at the Leeds Film Festival and won of the Caméra d’Or award as Best First Feature Film at Cannes.
It is light in the plot department. Rubén (Germán de Silva) has been truck driving for 30 years, is carrying timber from Asunción del Paraguay to Buenos Aires and, through an acquaintance, is hired to take a female stranger along for the journey. Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) arrives with an unexpected five month old baby, Anahí, in tow. Clearly unimpressed with this arrangement Rubén displays an obvious, rude reluctance and enquires at a café about bus tickets he will happily pay for, but there is no bus until the following day. As the miles increase their relationship grows.
Delicacy and subtlety are key words here. The attitude is that less is more, it speaks through words unsaid. For around thirty minutes at least, not a single word is uttered. We follow Rubén in a close up as he drives around in his lorry, sighing, drinking water, and smoking cigarettes. We can only observe his lonely life on the road and speculate on his thoughts that we cannot access. When Jacinta joins him, the initial silence in the vehicle is stifling. We are forced to feel their awkwardness, their unwillingness to make the first conversational move. The dialogue is stark. Their growing relationship is carefully indicated by actions, looks and small gestures. Rubén lights a cigarette and offers one to Jacinta, which she refuses, glances at her daughter and winds down the window. He then also opens his window and throws the cigarette out.
Anahí is as much a character as the other two and speaks roughly about as much, (may I also add she is actually adorable, I should give We Need to Talk about Kevin another watch to stifle the broodiness.) She is often the subject of the few words communicated, and an image of optimism and vitality next to the sad isolation of the two adults. As Rubén gradual warms to the child his walls slowly fall down. An infectious yawn brings the three together in one sweet moment that is only noticed by Rubén, Anahí completes the suggested family unity.
The three are drawn from a very slight back story, but are impressively well developed. Las Acacia’s is a study of human behaviour in its simplest ways. It’s all in the character acting, the emotion captured in a single expression. Rubén’s loneliness even radiates when he washes himself at the truck stop. The couple’s mutual admiration of each other is hinted in private glances, and the silence that was once stifling eventually becomes comfortable. It is said we only communicate 7% through words, and this film suggests how true that may be.
Las Acacias is the kind of film I can admire yet not love, or want to watch again. It demands patience, and it would be wrong to suggest it should have given more dialogue and plot as if it did, the shining moments would be overlooked. Rubén’s offer to hold Anahí, or gesture of actually stopping the lorry to have a quick fag, would not be so monumental. It was clearly intended to be this way and does not deserve criticism for it. Yet regardless, I couldn’t help wanting at least to have a stronger idea of the film’s underlying meaning and purpose. It was so minimalist and low key that the power it generated was something of the same. I felt somehow at a distance due to the film’s voyeuristic quality.