Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Simón takes a loose approach to the narrative, letting the small dramas of family play out alongside larger ones, giving as much value to the transient pleasures of fresh peach juice and cooked snails as the tensions between siblings." | Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival

Carla Simón builds on the deft touch she showed for portraying children and families in Summer 1993, in her Golden Bear winner. Unfolding over the course of a single harvest, she follows the Solé family, who are steeped in tradition but facing change as the land they have farmed as orchards for years is being converted by the landowners into fields of solar panels.

Simón takes a loose approach to the narrative, letting the small dramas of family play out alongside larger ones, giving as much value to the transient pleasures of fresh peach juice and cooked snails as the tensions between siblings.

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Scampering through the story is Iris (Ainet Jonou) and her twin cousins Pere and Pau (Joel and Isaac Rovira), making a den out of anything they can find and generally causing mayhem in the process. At the other end of the age spectrum, but no less important to the texture of this story, which rests gently on the push and pull of the generations, is grandad Rogelio (Josep Abad, whose quiet performance speaks volumes), who thought the word of the landowner's father was his bond, and Tieta Pipa (Antònia Castells), who seems to have an anecdote for every occasion.

In the middle are Iris's parents Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet) and Dolors (Anna Otín), Quimet's brother-in-law Cisco (Carles Cabos) and Nati (Montse Oró) and Quimet and Dolors' teenage kids Mariona (Xènia Roset) and Roger (Albert Bosch), plus occasional visits from Quimet's gay sister Gloria (Berta Pipó) who has evidently been a long-time peacemaker in the family.

This may sound like a clutter of characters, but Simón adroitly uses them to show the flexes of families and how they can snap together as a unit as quickly as they threaten to pull apart. Among the tensions that simmer in the heat of summer is Cisco's decision to embrace the solar panel farm, which puts him at odds with Quimet, who has also opened up a war front with Roger by dismissing his son's attempts to work the land, insisting he should be studying instead. The story is given shape by the impending loss of the land and plans for the harvest fiesta but it's the fabric of life in this bit of Catalonia - shown as under threat as the local farmers plan protests - that makes this film's spirit sing.

Simón shows the intricacies of life for the family and how they fit together snuggly even when it seems unlikely. Roger might be expressing his frustrations through techno music one moment, but he's just as likely to be seen curled up with his little sister helping her with her homework. Scene after scene encapsulates the chaos and bonding of the family - whether its Mariona picking up a tube of cream with her mouth to help her mum out as the family crowd out the bathroom or everyone spontaneously joining in with a folk song grandad taught them.

Alcarràs is semi-autobiographical and it has the feel of fully lived-in experience. Simón's greatest skill is to never push emotions on us, rather she lets them gently ripen so that we experience them at their richest.

Reviewed on: 06 Jan 2023
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Alcarràs packshot
The Solé family spends the summer picking peaches - but this year’s crop may well be their last as new owners plan to replace the peach trees with solar panels and the family’s livelihood is threatened.
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Director: Carla Simón

Writer: Carla Simón

Starring: Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Anna Otin, Xènia Roset, Albert Bosch, Ainet Jounou, Josep Abad, Montse Oró, Carles Cabós, Berta Pipó, Isaac Rovira, Joel Rovira

Year: 2022

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: Spain, Italy

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