Friday, November 6, 2015

Movie with Abe: Sand Dollars

Sand Dollars
Directed by Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán
Released November 6, 2015

Sometimes, a film’s setting speaks louder than its events. The Dominican Republic’s official submission for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars uses the backdrop of its country to paint an idyllic picture of romance and passion in a nation where there is an overwhelming disparity of wealth between the native population and foreigners who visit or choose to make it their home. “Sand Dollars” explores the dual lives lived by Noeli (Yanet Mojica), a young Dominican woman who splits her time pulling scams with her boyfriend and playing into the desires of Anne (Geraldine Chaplin), an older French woman, representing the two poles of experience in everyday Dominican life.

Noeli has an undeniable charm to her, capable of being gritty and down-to-earth with the boyfriend who shares her upbringing and outlook on life, and equally able to present a more airy, alluring façade that enchants the older woman with whom she spends a good portion of her days. Her boyfriend sees her as a partner-in-crime and someone relatively equal to him, and Anne has fallen hopelessly head over heels for her, much in the way a professor might fall for his or her student, well aware of the difference in what they have seen in their lives yet blinded by the exuberance of lust.

There is much to be said about class and social tiers in this film, which tells a specific narrative but also manages to get across a grander point about who people are in different contexts. Noeli tells her boyfriend, who she introduces to Anne as her brother, that she is merely playing Anne, doing whatever she requests so that she can best take advantage of the generosity and affection heaped upon her, which includes the promise of a trip abroad. But there is something about the relationship and the way they interact as conveyed by Mojica that suggests that there may in fact be more between them, and though Anne is definitely more into Noeli, she does reciprocate her feelings to a degree and gain a great deal of comfort from their romance.

Casting Chaplin, an established actress who over the last fifty years has proven herself to be a talent worthy of her last name, with roles from “Nashville” to “Talk to Her” across many languages and countries, with novice actress Mojica gives the film a sense of authenticity and ownership over the story it wants to tell. Both actresses are very capable and do a tremendous job of transmitting the passion they are experiencing, even though they both come from different worlds and approaches to what it is in which they are engaging. The film doesn’t end on a definitive note, preserving its dreamlike feel in a way that makes its events linger but appear as if they may have been just as fleeting and forgettable as Noeli constantly claimed.


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