Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Movie with Abe: Days of the Whale

Days of the Whale
Directed by Catalina Arroyave Restrepo
Released July 24, 2020

One of the main reasons that young people act out and break the rules is boredom. Not finding much that they are doing purposeful and having plenty of time on their hands can lead to petty criminal activity that is in truth victimless. Another powerful trigger can be activism, a desire to change a societal standard or rebel against an injustice they see being perpetrated. Whatever their intentions are, there can be consequences for defying what has been set as normative or expected, whether from official forces such as the police, military, or government or from extralegal entities with a more direct and potentially dangerous reach.

Cristina (Laura Tobón) and Simon (David Escallón) live in Medellín and spend most of their time tagging walls with graffiti art. As a result of her mother’s move to Spain to pursue a journalistic career opportunity, Cristina lives with her father and the much younger woman he is seeing, leading to frequent conflict and a desire for freedom. Simon lives with his grandmother and comes from a less privileged upbringing. They share an antiestablishment sentimentality, one that manifests most in their unintended but frequent interactions with the street gangs that they see as their true oppressors.

This film, which had its premiere at South by Southwest last year, runs less than eighty minutes but manages to tell a compelling and involving story in that time. Cristina and Simon are young and passionate, interested only in doing the things they want, not necessarily spending the family time or investing in positive decisions that might help them attain better futures. They know what they need to do to survive but are still driven by an energy they can exert solely through their artwork, which they also know is far from permanent given the possibility and likelihood of it being painted over by rivals or authorities.

This film serves as a formidable debut for its three main players. Tobón and Escallón deliver layered performances that showcase the enthusiasm that contrasts with, and is a product of, their frustrations with an inability to completely shape their own destinies. Behind the camera, Catalina Arroyave Restrepo, a native of Medellín who recently turned thirty, impresses with her first feature as both writer and director. This visually stirring film feels like an authentic slice of life in a country that most often represents only the famous and infamous, not those anonymous people who feel like no one will remember them when they’re gone.


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