Sand Dollars


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Sand Dollars
"This is a film filled with longing that, appropriately, leaves us yearning for more."

It's entirely appropriate that the word 'sand' appears in the title of this film by co-written and co-directed by husband and wife team Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán, adapted from the book by Jean-Noël Pancrazi. The word is redolent of shifting landscapes, by natural or manmade drift, and changing textures, from fine to coarse - elements that are crucial to and carefully navigated by the film.

Texture has come with age to Geraldine Chapman who, at 70, brings the opposing forces of the increased fragility and knowledge of old age to French woman Anne. She has more or less migrated to the Dominican Republic, where the days are warm and languid and where she papers over the cracks of her loneliness via a relationship with young Dominican Noelí (newcomer Yanet Mojica). For Noelí, it is a relationship of convenience, with Anne just a regular among a string of foreigners whom she cultivates 'friendships' with in return for gifts that she and her boyfriend (who masquerades as her brother) Yeremi (Ricardo Ariel Toribio) quickly scoot to the nearest pawn shop in return for cash.

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Everything about Noelí is in contrast to Anne. From the surface details of the colour of her skin and choice of dress - her metal hoop earrings, skinny jeans and vest top a far cry from the older woman's billowy, tie-dye preferences - to the economic strata they inhabit and their future hopes. Anne harbours the idea of taking the younger girl to Paris, where she can have her to herself, while Noelí is happy to embrace the scheme with the view of sending cash back to her beau.

What seems transactional at first, quickly shifts into somthing much more complex as Guzmán and Cárdenas explore the intensifying of the women's relationship without passing judgement. There is a jadedness to Anne, which the presence of Noelí's energy mitigates - an ennui underlined at an ex-pat dinner, which highlights the underlying discontent of many for whom money has failed to buy happiness. By making Anne cogniscant of her own obsession with the younger woman - yet unable to let it go - the directors avoid cliche and keep the psychological stakes high. Even Yeremi is not reduced to easy brush strokes. He may be happy to coin it from Noelí's job but there's a complexity to their relationship that grows through the runtime.

Beautifully shot by Israel Cárdenas and Jaime Guerra, there is an emphasis on light and shade, with scenes involving the two women swimming or dancing almost tactile in their vibrancy. This is a film filled with longing that, appropriately, leaves us yearning for more.

Reviewed on: 07 Jul 2015
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A relationship blossoms between an older European and a young Dominican woman who makes her living 'befriending' foreigners at a beach resort.

Director: Israel Cárdenas, Laura Amelia Guzmán

Writer: Israel Cárdenas, Laura Amelia Guzmán

Starring: Geraldine Chaplin, Yanet Mojica, Ricardo Ariel Toribio

Year: 2014

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Mexico, Argentina, Dominican Republic


EIFF 2015

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