The Lifeguard


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Lifeguard
"Goes to show that life is often more fascinating than fiction."

Maite Alberdi's feature debut has a lazy, hazy, summery feel that perfectly suits its beach setting. With the sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline and hordes of visitors, not all of whom want to play by the local lifeguards' rules, Chile's busy Chépica beach is the perfect setting for drama. As this absorbing film unfolds, there is plenty of that and a host of well-defined characters, and yet surprisingly, this is a documentary, not fiction.

Mauricio is one of the lifeguards and despite his laidback look, he takes its job seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it takes on a comical edge. He polices the beach and his fellow lifeguards, cross that Jean Pierre in the neighbouring watchtower won an award, despite being frequently late for work. He believes in sticking to the codes of the beach and makes sure everyone around him knows it, eager to make sure swimmers don't get out of their depth and stop sunbathers blocking his path to the sea.

Copy picture

He may be the one paid to people-watch but down at the beach everyone is an observer. A couple set up an illicit barbecue, convinced they'll get away with it, while others consider the lifeguard just as he, in turn, considers them. Mauricio has a young sidekick, who he lets blow his whistle to keep the swimmers safe - but what happens to the rule book when someone gets into difficultly?

Alberdi is a quiet observer, capturing a snapshot of all aspects of the beach and showing it for the great leveller that it is. Like Mauricio, her camera does not venture into the sea, being more concerned with the idle chatter of those on the sand. Often her camera is fixed, with the comings and goings of the beach popping unexpectedly in and out of the frame. All life is here in all its contradictions and, with its slowly growing tensions and a surprisingly hard-hitting last act, this could easily be a scripted drama - a fact that leads you to consider the observational documentary form and the impact of editing upon it. But however the footage is cut together, the fact that these people exist makes the emotional impact of what we're observing catch us by surprise and goes to show that life is often more fascinating than fiction.

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2012
Share this with others on...
The Lifeguard packshot
A documentary which begins as a quirky character study of lifeguards and beachgoers, but becomes something altogether darker and more shocking when events take a dramatic turn.

Director: Maite Alberdi

Writer: Maite Alberdi, Sebastián Brahm

Starring: Mauricio Rodríguez, Lucas Acuña, Teresa Guerrechea, Jean-Pierre Palacios, Alán Muñoz

Year: 2011

Runtime: 64 minutes

Country: Chile


EIFF 2012

Search database: