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A reflection on one middle-aged man's disconnect

In this lean, slow-paced drama from Lisandro Alonso, a merchant marine named Farrel (Nieves Cabrera) returns to his home after many years at sea. Home is a remote spot deep in the mountains of Tierra del Fuego; it's not even a village, but a cluster of houses near a sawmill. There is virtually no dialogue (nor anything of substance), and only the merest suggestion of what motivates any of the blank-faced Farrel's few actions. Alonso's camera is mostly static, holding long shots of banal activities. Yet, the spare scenes accumulate, sketching in, if not quite a portrait of Farrel, then at least a few scattered snapshots. And within those frames, what's missing comes to feel more weighty than what we can see. Alonso's is an esoteric form of cinema, committed to a naturalistic purity, and stridently unconcerned with conventions such as narrative or even focusing on its main protagonist. As such, those looking for story are apt to find this film, even at 86 minutes, ponderous and frustrating. Those who have the patience to let Alonso's tableaux percolate in their minds may connect to the work's unvoiced meditations about absence, loneliness, estrangement and the ongoing muddle of life where perhaps nothing does, or can, change. In Spanish, with subtitles. Fri., Sept. 25, through Sun., Sept. 27. Melwood

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