Last Days At Sea


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Last Days At Sea
"Atienza and Reyboy are buddies, and the warmth of their friendship glows through almost every conversation they have." | Photo: Venice Atienza

There's a tranquil serenity to this feature debut from Venice Atienza, which picks up its rhythms from the day-to-day life of Reyboy, a 12-year-old who lives in the fishing village of Karihatag in the Philippines.

The "last days" of the film's title refer to the fact that he is soon to leave his home because there is no high school there, in order to study in the city. Atienza recalls meeting Reyboy when he was just nine - and of showing him a photo of Manila that she took through her plane window as she left, noting he had never seen so many lights before. Not manmade ones, in any event, although the sky - which takes a co-starring, and often starry, role in this film is unblighted by light pollution allowing enviable night-sky gazing.

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It's the sea that is Reyboy's favourite, though, and the gentle shush of the waves is almost constantly present throughout the film as we see him playing on the shoreline or in the water itself, captured with the energy of childhood. His dad, like most of the older men in the village, fishes for a living and Atienza shows how the village works in co-operative fashion, sharing their catch and taking their husbandry of the fish seriously. As with almost all recent documentaries of this sort, the shadow of commercial fishing is felt, but Atienza's interests lie in celebrating this way of life, rather than in dwelling on the ways in which it might be threatened. Despite its positive air, however, there is also a melancholy note struck by the fact that, in order to progress, children must move away, with many, inevitably, never fully coming back.

Atienza and Reyboy are buddies, and the warmth of their friendship glows through almost every conversation they have - whether they are choosing beach pebbles to take with them when they go to the city, deciding what shapes they can see in the clouds boiling in the blazing red evening skies or considering what wish they might make on a star. Reyboy's observations and the small town way of life lead Atienza to reflect on her own history and desires as well, from the sweet Biko rice dessert her grandma used to make and that she had forgotten about until she ate a version in the village to what she might wish for if she has a chance, with Reyboy's big sky thinking proving welcomingly infectious.

The film is perfectly placed in the Generation section at Berlin Film Festival, which is aimed at older children, who will plenty to think about and discuss here. What lies ahead may be uncertain but with this sort of energy on Reyboy's side, you're left with every confidence he will dive into it with purpose.

Reviewed on: 01 Mar 2021
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Last Days At Sea packshot
The filmmaker accompanies Filipino boy Reyboy in his last days in a fishing village by the sea before he heads off to school in the city.

Director: Venice Atienza

Year: 2021

Runtime: 72 minutes

Country: Philippines, Taiwan


BIFF 2021

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