Las Acacias lets the human elements of the story slowly build up into a moving film.
Las Acacias, which won the award for best first feature at Cannes in 2011, shows how powerful simplicity can be in a film. Director Pablo Giorgelli takes what sounds like a mawkish premise and strips away any sentimentality or cheap emotions that a lesser director would embrace. With a bare minimum of dialogue and a camera that comes across as a passive observer, Las Acacias lets the human elements of the story slowly build up into a moving film.
Rubén (Germán de Silva) is a truck driver who travels the same route from Paraguay to Buenos Aires delivering wood. The movie opens with Rubén preparing for his next trip to Argentina before picking up Jacinta (Hebe Duarte), a woman that Rubén’s boss asked to take to Buenos Aires to visit her family. Things are off to a bad start when Rubén sees that Jacinta is carrying an infant in her arms. He had no idea she was bringing a baby along for the trip and, despite not protesting, it’s clear he doesn’t like having a third passenger on board. Soon enough their trip begins without a word being said until, slowly, they begin to open up and develop a bond over their several days travelling together.
It may sound like a sappy story but Giorgelli does everything in his power to make sure he doesn’t cheapen the film. Giorgelli embraces silence, and there are many long passages in Las Acacias that have no one speaking a word, but the real drama in the film is just underneath the surface. De Silva and Duarte are both fantastic in their roles, coming across as completely natural while at the same time evoking everything that needs to be said with their faces. In the opening of the film we follow Rubén going through some of his routine. No words are spoken in this sequence but by the time it’s over we get a complete sense of who this character is and what he’s like. Many films wish they could achieve character development this well over an entire feature, but Las Acacias accomplishes it within five minutes.
Most of Las Acacias functions as an anti-road movie. Instead of meeting characters along the way through pit stops, we’re mostly in the cab of the truck with Rubén, Jacinta and her baby. In fact, the moment someone tries to get friendly during a pit stop for food Rubén is immediately hostile to them. It’s around this point where Giorgelli’s choice to let the viewers fill in the blanks for the characters pays off in spades. Towards the end, Las Acacias slowly slips in moments that may seem innocuous but come across as emotional breakthroughs. Since we’ve gotten to know these characters for so long and seen them grow to like each other, every one of these moments in Las Acacias is fully earned.
As of this review Las Acacias has been picked up by Outsider Pictures for a US release sometime in the future. While a release date isn’t known yet, it would be worth your time to try and see this film when it does come out. Even with the formally limited style Las Acacias has a big heart at its center and pays off tremendously if you’re patient enough.