In The Quarry


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In The Quarry
"In the quarry, just beneath the surface of the world as we normally see it, primitive impulses are never far away."

It’s the sort of place you would have been firmly instructed not to go swimming as a child, a place where there are sharp rocks and twisted bits of metal and, rumour has it, venomous tiger turtles. Naturally it has a magnetic appeal for local youngsters and, at this stage in their lives, a nostalgic appeal for Alicia (Paula Silva), Tincho (Rafael Beltrán) and Tola (Luis Pazos), who decide to meet up there again when the former, who has been away for some time, returns to town with new boyfriend Bruno (Augusto Gordillo) in tow. Tola hopes that his teenage girlfriend, Pao, will soon join them and make it feel more like a party. In the meantime, they’ll soak up the sun on their artificial beach, drink and maybe splash around a bit.

It’s not much of a plan but it’s as good a way as any to spend an afternoon relaxing out in rural Uruguay. With the turquoise water covering a multitude of sins, this vast, rugged crater has a certain reclaimed beauty. Its inherent dangers add a little extra thrill, and soon the men are daring each other into making reckless leaps. But something has changed since they were kids. What was once about testing boundaries and exploring rivalries that would later be set aside has become more real. The stakes have risen. Alicia once slept with Tincho and Bruno seems unable to get this out of his head. As the two men face off against each other, neither quite sure where the edge is, where play crosses over into something else, Alicia, frustrated by Bruno’s attitude, seems more and more inclined to wonder if Tincho would be a better bet.

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What begins as social awkwardness, with Tincho and Tola obviously uncomfortable about the unspoken tension simmering between Alicia and Bruno, clearly has the potential to turn into something more dangerous. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hit in the eye; but what directors Bernardo and Rafael Antonaccio seem keen to get across is that it’s never actually fun and games for women on the receiving end of this kind of thing, and that the socially approved approach of taking it in one’s stride might be dangerous in itself. In the quarry, just beneath the surface of the world as we normally see it, primitive impulses are never far away. No character escapes criticism but there’s no need to rely on easy sympathy when the audience is rooting for civility itself to win the day – for an afternoon in the sun to be enough.

Rafael’s beguiling cinematography takes in the appeal of a place where we want to feel at ease whilst subtly highlighting a number of natural threats. Despite the fact that, for much of the running time, all we have is conversation, there’s a continual sense that something is in motion and the tension never lets up. One character after another has to strike that difficult balance between staying out of danger and protecting others. By the end, when we are finally invited to look at events from a different perspective, our expectations have been altered sufficiently that a simple decision to avoid risk seems in itself like a form of aggravation.

There are no major surprises here, no new or unexpected insights into the human condition, but In The Quarry is nevertheless a tight little thriller that packs quite a punch.

Reviewed on: 29 Mar 2020
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A summer afternoon, an abandoned quarry, four friends. An interpellative thriller about gender violence.

Director: Bernardo Antonaccio, Rafael Antonaccio

Writer: Bernardo Antonaccio, Rafael Antonaccio

Starring: Rafael Beltrán, Augusto Gordillo, Luis Pazos, Paula Silva, Natalia Tarmezzano

Year: 2019

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Uruguay


Glasgow 2020

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